Image credit: Spliethoff
In a recent legal dispute, Amsterdam-based shipping giant, Rederij Spliethoff, finds itself entangled with a terminated director. The company is seeking separation from an individual who, from his professional email account, sent abrasive emails to members of the Dutch Senate, criticizing the government’s COVID-19 policies. Furthermore, the ex-director inundated colleagues and business contacts with his opinions.
The confrontation unfolded in a courtroom where Spliethoff alleges that the former director is prolonging the farewell process. The company contends that he refuses to sell back his certificates in the enterprise, presumably anticipating an increase in their value. Conversely, the ousted director suggested on Wednesday that the offered price from the shipping company is undervalued.
Spliethoff, a major player in the Dutch shipping sector with around 1200 employees and a fleet of numerous vessels, has faced a series of unsettling issues within its leadership in recent years.
One of the incidents involved the dismissal of an assistant director caught falsifying the signature of a KPMG accountant on the 2019 financial statements. It was subsequently revealed that he embezzled €2.5 million. In a repayment agreement, it was disclosed that he also forged the signatures of his wife and mother.
This led to the dismissal of the CFO, who had indulged in extravagant trips at the expense of the subordinate assistant director. The duo traveled in a private jet to Abu Dhabi for the Grand Prix, resulting in further legal proceedings.
In these cases, various courts were involved, allowing Spliethoff, which generally shies away from the limelight, to terminate the directors, as ruled by different judicial bodies.
The ousted directors claimed a lax control culture within the company. The director who flouted COVID-19 regulations was suspended and later terminated when he failed to amend his behavior. The labor court had already terminated his employment contract last year without a severance package. Recently, the appeals court supported the judgment that the man acted blameworthily. His criticism of the COVID-19 policy and correspondence with politicians were deemed contrary to the principle of good employment.
Despite receiving a transitional payment, the director, who earned over three hundred thousand euros annually, refused to repurchase the certificates, citing resentment over the dismissal and the limited severance pay. The company contends that his actions are driven solely by personal gain.
This legal wrangle adds to a string of challenges for Rederij Spliethoff, raising questions about the internal dynamics within the company and the need for stricter oversight.