Cleanaway responds to CEO bullying accusations, CFO resigns

Cleanaway responds to CEO bullying accusations, CFO resigns

Cleanaway Waste Management (ASX: CWY) has today issued a response to allegations published in the Australian Financial Review that CEO Vik Bansal (pictured) bullied and intimidated employees.

Shortly after issuing its response the Melbourne-based company also revealed chief financial officer (CFO) Brendan Gill had resigned and would retire.

As reported today, the AFR reports Bansal was investigated in June over accusations he led a "culture of bullying and harassment", with sources claiming he would swear at staff and exclude women from promotion opportunities.

Further, the publication says Bansal "created an environment where senior managers couldn't escalate bad news for fear of reprisal", and asked employees to work from the Melbourne headquarters against Victoria's strict COVID-19 guidelines.

Sources who spoke to the AFR also alleged the company's board, chaired by Mark Chellew, failed to probe Bansal's behaviour for a number of years.

Today Cleanaway has responded to the issues raised, claiming a range of measures have been introduced including executive leadership mentoring, enhanced reporting, and monitoring of the CEO's conduct following an investigation into his behaviour.

"The Board of Cleanaway takes allegations of misconduct in the workplace very seriously," says Cleanaway.

"Mr Bansal has acknowledged that his behaviour should have been better and expressed contrition.

"He has discussed this openly with the Board and with his colleagues and has embraced changes in his approach."

Despite Cleanaway's apology posted to the ASX this morning, the AFR reports that staff at the company's St Kilda Road office had not been told of the outcome of the external investigation, and Bansal had not offered an internal apology to staff.

Further, shareholders were not notified of the investigation into Bansal's behaviour nor of the complaint.

Bansal did not offer up an apology either in today's company announcement. 

"I accept the feedback and remain totally committed to creating a progressive culture at Cleanaway while executing on our strategy and delivering ongoing financial performance," says Bansal.

The company's chairman Mark Chellew says Cleanaway has taken appropriate action in these circumstances.

"Mr Bansal had some issued with overly-assertive behaviour in the workplace and has acknowledged that he needed to address them," Chellew said.

"The Board is disappointed in the circumstances but has taken appropriate action.

"We have noted the committed and sincere manner in which Mr Bansal has responded. The Board will not tolerate any further instances of unacceptable behaviour."

CFO departs

Cleanaway announced late this morning that CFO Brendan Gill would retire after more than six years with the company, to be replaced by current Nufarm (ASX: NUF) CFO Paul Binfield on 1 February, 2021.

Gill will continue in the CFO role until that date, and will stay on with the group until July to ensure an orderly transition.

The group noted Gill had contributed significantly to the transformation of Cleanaway as Australia's leading integrated waste management company since he joined in September 2014, and is leaving the company's balance sheet in a healthy state.

His focus on getting the company through the legacy landfill remediation issue is expected to be accretive to cash flows in years to come.

Binfield has held CFO roles in a number of public, private equity and multinational companies, while during his almost nine years at Nufarm he has led a number of major projects, including the recent divestment of Nufarm's South American businesses.

"While I am disappointed that Brendan has made the decision to retire, I am also excited Paul will be joining our team. I look forward to his leadership and contribution as we embark on phase 2 of our Footprint 2025 strategy," says Bansal.

"Brendan has been fundamental in helping Cleanaway achieve the growth we have seen over the last five years. I thank him for his extensive contribution and friendship, and wish him and his family my very sincere best wishes in retirement."

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