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Over the past week two surprising developments related to corporate governance played out in the public domain. At Tongaat Hulett, the directors who were part of the company in 2018 when it revealed the existence of “accounting irregularities” were hauled before the Durban commercial crimes court. When the scandal broke, there was consternation on multiple fronts. The first was that the Tongaat scandal happened while South Africans were still trying to understand the Steinhoff scandal of 2017.

The parallels were irresistible. Both companies had strong CEO personalities, while those tasked with overseeing them — the board of directors — were less than forceful in the execution of their duties. Second, the practice at both companies was for frequent transactions involving complicated deal-making, which required the overseers to be even more vigilant. Third, the CEOs managed to put in place executive teams that were either complicit in the shenanigans or too paralysed and compro...

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