In an email to the buying group’s members and preferred suppliers, dated 24 March, Pocklington explained he had requested a barrister to conduct a review of accusations raised about him in September 2016.
As previously reported by Jeweller, following his resignation from the JAA board on 9 September 2016, Pocklington said he received an email from the JAA that contained “offensive” allegations regarding his professional reputation.Pocklington had resigned from his position as a JAA director to avoid potential conflicts of interest that might have resulted from the fact that Nationwide had decided to not support the new JAA Jewellery Tradeshow in 2017. The buying group had instead chosen to continue its 25-year association with the International Jewellery Fair (IJF), organised by Expertise Events (EE).
Pocklington believed that remaining on the JAA board while not supporting its new trade show was inappropriate.
The allegations about Pocklington’s professional reputation subsequently became worse on 29 September when the JAA issued a media statement that accused Pocklington of an undisclosed conflict of interest during his time serving as a board director.
The JAA’s two-page statement, titled ‘JAA Board replies to resignation of director’, was issued by JAA executive director Amanda Hunter, president Selwyn Brandt and then vice president Laura Sawade.
Nationwide subsequently sought legal advice and decided to quit the JAA after 25 years of continuous membership.
Comprehensive legal review
Pocklington stated in his recent email that given no apology was made by the JAA, he had asked NSW barrister and senior counsel (SC) Ian Coleman to conduct a comprehensive review of the matter.
Coleman, also a former judge, and his comprehensive advice concluded that the JAA’s allegations were unfounded. The report took into consideration company law, the JAA constitution, common law, case law and texts on the subject of conflicts of interest.
When Jeweller asked Pocklington why he felt it was necessary to arrange for this legal report and then issue it to Nationwide’s 450 members, he said: “Most of our members know me quite well and believe that the JAA allegation of a conflict of interest is untrue. However, we thought it important to find a way to make it abundantly clear to all Nationwide members and suppliers that the allegations have no substance whatsoever and I acted appropriately.”
Pocklington also acknowledged in his email that his professional experience, which includes being a qualified company secretary, a member of the Governance Institute of Australia, a Fellow of Certified Practising Accountants Australia and having more than 40 years of experience as a director of numerous companies, meant that his understanding of the fiduciary requirements of company directors was quite extensive and he “always” had the JAA’s best interests in mind.
Findings and conclusions
Among his observations, Coleman referenced minutes taken during a JAA boarding meeting on 19 May 2016, whereby it was confirmed that the JAA would “run its own fair in 2017 in Sydney” and that some board members would have a conflict of interest.
“The minutes of that meeting record the resolution of the board that five of JAA’s six directors, including Pocklington, ‘have a conflict of interest due to their involvement as exhibitor in the jewellery fairs organised’ by EE.
“The minutes note that Pocklington abstained from voting on the resolution to run the JAA's ‘own fair’. I am instructed that Pocklington informed the meeting that the board should not assume that ‘we will be part of it’. Whether others would choose to recall his saying so is unknown. The minutes do not record more than Pocklington's abstention from voting.”
Nevertheless, this information supports previous statements that Pocklington abstained from voting on the decision to run a second jewellery fair and that Nationwide would make a choice about which 2017 fair to support – the IJF or the JAA Jewellery Tradeshow – after the then upcoming 2016 Sydney IJF.
Following a detailed explanation of events, Coleman’s report concluded: “In my view, Pocklington's response to a real potential conflict of duty and interest was as the law required. I have not been made aware of any other allegation or circumstance, which could be considered more than a theoretical or rhetorical conflict.
“On the evidence available to me, the JAA does not have, and has not had, reasonable grounds for suggesting, or implying that Pocklington failed to declare a conflict of duty and interest to the board of JAA whilst he was a director of JAA.”
Further, Coleman noted that, “Pocklington’s decision to resign was sound, and possibly in [the] JAA's interests.”
Pocklington ended his email by stating, “perhaps in the not too distant future, the JAA will acknowledge their mistake and issue an apology”.
He added that the report had not been sent to the JAA; however, several board members would have received it because of their positions as Nationwide preferred suppliers.
Jeweller contacted the JAA for comment on Coleman’s report and whether an apology to Pocklington would be considered.
The following response was provided: “The JAA has noted Mr Pocklington’s email to the industry and specifically that Mr Coleman SC’s conclusion was based on ‘the evidence available to me …’ The JAA maintains its position that it acted professionally and diligently based on evidence provided to the JAA at that time. The board sought clarification on dealings that it believed should have been declared, especially given the situation between the JAA and the other party involved. The JAA reiterates that it handled this matter privately via a letter to Colin Pocklington to which a full response was not received. At no stage was the JAA asked for any submissions or opinion by Mr Coleman SC.”
The full report by Coleman can be viewed here.
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