Sacked Endeavour Mining chief faced sexual misconduct claims

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Ousted Endeavour Mining chief Sébastien de Montessus has fought allegations of sexual misconduct towards female employees, according to four people with knowledge of the claims, adding to the woes of the French executive already suspected of instructing an irregular payment.

The boss of the FTSE 100 gold producer was sacked last month for “serious misconduct” after the company’s board said he had instructed an irregular $5.9mn payment. Endeavour Mining stripped de Montessus of remuneration worth $29.1mn.

Separately, following allegations made in October by a whistleblower, the board asked the law firm Linklaters to investigate claims of sexual harassment against de Montessus, according to people with knowledge of the probe and correspondence reviewed by the Financial Times.

While the law firm did not confirm the original whistle-blower’s allegations within the limits set for the investigation, it unearthed other claims of sexual misconduct against the executive, one of the people said.

Linklaters was made aware of allegations of sexual harassment against de Montessus more than a year ago during an interaction with an Endeavour employee, according to correspondence reviewed by the FT. They were passed on to management, according to four people familiar with the matter. It is unclear whether these claims were different from those recently investigated.

During his eight years as CEO, de Montessus rode the wave of surging gold prices through dealmaking in West Africa, doubling Endeavour’s annual gold output to more than 1mn ounces. His strategy helped turn the group into London’s largest listed gold producer after Russian industry giants delisted because of western sanctions. De Montessus’ remuneration was the highest of any FTSE 100 chief executive in 2021.

Ian Cockerill, Endeavour’s newly appointed CEO, told employees on Monday that the Linklaters probe had uncovered improper conduct by de Montessus, although it did not uphold the specific whistleblower claims, according to one person with knowledge of the meeting.

The person added that Cockerill had informed staff that the board had determined that de Montessus’s behaviour broke the company’s code of business conduct and policy on harassment. Such a conclusion would have resulted in disciplinary action had he not been sacked over the irregular payment, Cockerill also noted.

De Montessus has previously said that the “independent Linklaters probe did not uphold any of the personal conduct allegations” and its inclusion in a statement at the time of his dismissal was “utterly misleading”. He added that he was considering his legal position.

This week he said in a statement that “the details of [the Linklaters] report are confidential, but I addressed all specific allegations at the time and I will not engage in a trial by media”.

Endeavour Mining and Linklaters declined to comment for this story.

The FT has previously reported that several Endeavour employees raised concerns to the board about whether Linklaters was independent enough to conduct the probe into de Montessus.

The law firm did not include several former senior employees at Endeavour who left prior to the investigation and may have had relevant information as part of its probe into de Montessus’s personal conduct, and others declined to take part, according to two people familiar with the probe.

Meanwhile the board’s investigation into what it deemed an irregular payment and all other asset sales is ongoing.

De Montessus said that he instructed a creditor in 2021 to offset a sum owed to Endeavour to pay for essential security equipment to protect its partners and employees in a conflict zone. While admitting a “lapse in judgment” for not informing the board of the arrangement, he said that “the decision had no additional cost to the company and did not benefit me personally in any way”.

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