Investor Standard Life seeks change at Sports Direct, Volkswagen

Wed Feb 1, 2017 10:11am EST
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By Carolyn Cohn

LONDON (Reuters) - Standard Life Investments, the fund arm of insurer Standard Life (SL.L: Quote), has concerns about governance at Sports Direct (SPD.L: Quote) and Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) and will press for more change at the companies, it said in its annual governance report on Wednesday.

Mike Ashley's previous role as executive deputy chairman of Sports Direct had been "ill-defined and did not seem to reflect the reality of his influence at the company," and the board lacked independence, Standard Life Investments (SLI) said, though it added it welcomed Ashley's appointment as chief executive in September.

SLI also said it had "major concerns" about the firm's remuneration policy.

The sportswear chain founded by Ashley, owner of Newcastle United soccer club, has come under fire for its working practices as well as for governance failures.

Standard Life is the fourth largest shareholder in Sports Direct with a 3.5 percent stake, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

Sports Direct did not respond to request for comment.

At Volkswagen (VW), SLI said "increased board independence is crucial to rebuilding trust" in the company.

VW's acknowledgement in September 2015 that it had used software to reduce emissions levels when diesel cars were being tested in the United States wiped billions of euros from its market value, forced the chief executive's resignation and led to investigations and lawsuits around the world.   Continued...

FILE PHOTO - A U.S. flag flutters in the wind above a Volkswagen dealership in Carlsbad, California, U.S. May 2, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo