• Chief Executive Paul Badrick steps aside

Grant Thornton Johannesburg’s Chief Executive Paul Badrick steps aside

Grant Thornton Johannesburg has announced that its CEO, Mr Paul Badrick, has stepped aside voluntarily -- pending the outcome of an investigation into sexual harassment allegations levelled against him.

With immediate effect, Ms Serena Ho, the Chair of Grant Thornton Johannesburg’s Governing Board, will take an active role with the Executive Committee in the management of the firm and its communications.

Allegations against Mr Badrick were made during an investigation by Grant Thornton International Limited (GTIL) following a former director’s claims of sexual harassment against a former Head of Forensics earlier this year.

The sexual harassment allegations against Mr Badrick occurred during 2015. No formal complaints were made until the GTIL investigation which has just ended.

Grant Thornton has said it will investigate the allegations as quickly as possible and Mr Badrick has stepped aside to allow the investigation to take place. The firm emphasised that they are new allegations which are yet to be investigated.

Earlier this year Grant Thornton apologised unreservedly to two former employees who were sexually harassed by its former Head of Forensics. They reiterated that the man had left Grant Thornton’s employ.

Yesterday the firm noted, in a letter to clients, that it had “previously publicly apologised and acknowledged mistakes in the way the matter was handled and the impact it had on the individuals concerned”. It added “We have written to the individual who raised the allegations to acknowledge that the former Head of Forensics’ conduct violated acceptable standards. We have offered her a meaningful settlement amount for the impact this has had, and we have again apologised to her unreservedly.”
The GTIL investigation was one of three independent investigations undertaken.

They include Grant Thornton launching its own external, independent probe headed by Ms Jennifer Jeftha, a seasoned and accomplished Human Resources executive with significant Board-level experience; and Grant Thornton are preparing a detailed report for the Commission for Gender Equality in response to their request for information.

In addition, and over and above its 24-hour employee well-being programme, Grant Thornton has implemented additional programmes for staff run by an external labour consultant who has been available once a week to meet staff anonymously and confidentially. There has been no take up of this service and no staff have called an anonymous, confidential hotline set up for them to discuss or report concerns or incidents of sexual harassment.

The firm has also held a series of five workshops attended by 118 staff members, focused on dealing with harassment in the workplace, and further workshops are planned.

Grant Thornton acknowledged that “something had gone wrong” and said the GTIL report highlighted a need for the firm to address its leadership’s approach to upholding global values and standards. It reinforced the need for the Johannesburg firm to create an environment where its people felt respected and supported.

“We have zero tolerance for any form of harassment. We will continue to monitor and review and will take steps to address leadership challenges and the underlying culture,” the firm said.