WPP chairman defends role in resignation of Sir Martin Sorrell

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June 13, 2018 11:12 am Published by
Sir Martin SorrellImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption WPP investors want more clarity about the departure of Sir Martin Sorrell

The chairman of WPP has defended the way the advertising giant handled the resignation and fall-out from the departure of Sir Martin Sorrell.

Roberto Quarta told the annual shareholders’ meeting that the “board acted appropriately throughout”.

He faces a possible shareholder revolt over his re-election and the company’s executive pay and bonus scheme.

Sir Martin has faced claims involving payment to a sex worker and poor treatment of staff – which he denies.

The former chief executive, who over 30 years turned WPP from a small maker of wire baskets into the world’s largest advertising company, resigned in April.

An internal inquiry looked into allegations made by a whistleblower, but the report has not been published because WPP said doing so would breach data protection rules.

Mr Quarta told the AGM in London: “The process that the Board followed in response to the allegation against Sir Martin was robust both from a governance and legal perspective.

“Although we have confirmed that the matter was financially wholly immaterial to WPP, we understand why some would like the company to disclose or confirm further details of the allegation.

“However, right from the outset, the board has acted in accordance with unequivocal legal advice that data protection law prohibits us from doing so.”

A report in the Financial Times earlier this week raised issues about Sir Martin’s treatment of employees.

Mr Quarta said: “While we are not able to comment on individual cases or specific allegations, I want to make it clear that at WPP – as in any other workplace – everyone is entitled to be treated with respect.

“As we said in response to the FT’s report, everyone at WPP should feel able to raise concerns and to have them listened to and acted upon as appropriate.”

The company will announce later the result of shareholder votes on the re-election of directors and the remuneration report, which includes payments worth millions of pounds to Sir Martin over the next five years.

Proxy votes have already been cast, and the BBC understands that around 25% will oppose ongoing payments to Sir Martin.

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