Back in 2007 Sean Holmes, then an analyst with JPMorgan, published a 56-page report advising investors to steer clear of Steinhoff. As the FM reported some months ago, Holmes referred to the group’s "pattern of aggressive accounting treatment", its unnervingly poor disclosure, a disturbing spate of acquisitions used to "paper over the cracks" and an "unusual emphasis" on minimising its taxes. Since that fateful day in early December 2017 when the Steinhoff share price started its precipitous decline, this dark, disturbing side of Steinhoff has pretty much been the only side we’ve heard about. But prior to December 6, few small investors — who seem represented in unusually high numbers in Steinhoff — were aware of this aspect of its modus operandi. Two days earlier Steinhoff had unsettled investors when it released a Sens statement saying its upcoming annual results would not be audited. The share price dropped from above R50 to R17. On December 6 came the news of CEO Markus Jooste’s...

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