Fonterra’s inquiry into the whey protein concentrate contamination will include two people from outside the company.
Today Fonterra Chairman John Wilson announced that Fonterra’s Board has established the WPC80 Inquiry Committee, and charged them to oversee an independent review into the circumstances giving rise to the affected whey protein concentrate (WPC80) and subsequent chain of events.
Mr Wilson said he had complete confidence that Fonterra’s CEO, Theo Spierings, had made the right decisions and is continuing to do everything to manage this complex issue, but that there are serious lessons that need to be learnt.
“It is critical that we identify these lessons quickly so our farmers, governments, customers, consumers and unit holders can again have full confidence in Fonterra and its products.
“With this in mind, the Board has confirmed the Committee will be chaired by Independent Director, Sir Ralph Norris, and will include two external independent members who are not Fonterra board members.”
The Committee is comprised of:
· Sir Ralph Norris (chair) – Independent Director
· Simon Israel – Independent Director
· Dame Judith Potter – External Independent Member
· Blue Read – Farmer Elected Director
· Nicola Shadbolt – Farmer Elected Director
· John Waller – Independent Director
An eminent and respected scientist will also be appointed to the Committee over the coming days as the second independent member.
Commenting specifically on Dame Judith Potter, a retired High Court judge and fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Directors, Mr Wilson said that her appointment to the Committee demonstrates the Co-operative’s commitment to a full and independent inquiry.
“Dame Judith brings with her a breadth of legal, judicial and board experience, and a reputation for being decisive and commercially astute.”
The Committee has appointed Jack Hodder, QC of Chapman Tripp, to undertake the review into the events leading up to and following the WPC80 concerns. Mr Hodder will report back to the Committee.
As part of this, Mr Hodder will have access to all necessary independent experts and advisers, and the WPC80 Inquiry Committee is currently seeking an internationally recognised industry expert on the manufacturing and safety of foods to work alongside Mr Hodder.
“The inquiry will start immediately and it is the Board’s intention to have it completed within six weeks. However, the emphasis will be on a full and thorough investigation.
“The Board has given the Committee a far-reaching remit. It will not only review the circumstances and principle decision points relating to the affected WPC80 product, it will also look more broadly at Fonterra’s business procedures, systems and practices,” Mr Wilson said.
Two well qualified external members, three independent directors and two farmer elected ones provide a good mix for the committee.
A full inquiry into not just the contamination and how it was handled but the broader view of the company’s procedures, systems and practices is necessary to find out exactly what went wrong and why it was so badly handled.
Only then will the company be able to improve what it does and how it does it and from that foundation rebuild its reputation.