For an accounting scandal that led to €13bn of writedowns and wiped $15bn off market worth, a proposed settlement of $1bn looks skimpy. But Steinhoff, the disgraced SA retail group, is hardly in a position to splash much hard cash. The real payout to investors is in painfully won wisdom.

Not for nothing is Steinhoff’s biggest backer and erstwhile chair Christo Wiese known in the SA media as “the former billionaire”. If a company’s accounts look too good to be true, they probably are. If it is hard to discern a strategy in a string of disparate, pricey acquisitions, the acquirer may not have one — beyond keeping the money moving.

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