An activist Argo Group shareholder accuses the company of using a corporate jet for 1,500 flights in recent months and questions whether the trips were exclusively for business purposes. So goes the latest salvo fired against the company in advance of its annual meeting on May 24.
Voce Capital Management issued a lengthy statement on April 24 that elaborated upon its allegations about corporate spending abuses, particularly corporate jet travel. Argo has previously denied all accusations regarding lavish spending.
“In our shareholder letter, we invited Argo to explain whether it considers the G-5’s (Gulfstream V) recent 1,500 flights and 500 hours per year in the air to be exclusively for business purposes, and if so, to explain how that could be possible in light of the many questionable destinations and suspicious timing of trips we have highlighted,” the latest comments from Voce state. “Argo instead coyly parried that ‘the company did not use corporate aircraft to transport our CEO to all of the destinations described’…in Voce Capital’s initial press release.” (Editor’s note: Emphasis was added by Voce Capital).
Voce also released flight logs it said were for Argo’s G-5 dating to 2016. They include multiple destinations in Florida, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Milan (Italy), California and London in the UK.
Additionally, Voce said it has identified three Argo corporate jets used in heavy rotation. In its latest statement, the firm also continued to criticize Argo’s lack of disclosure of what it spends on corporate sponsorships, its corporate housing provided for Argo CEO Mark Watson in Bermuda and its reasoning behind two recent board appointments the firm alleges were illegal.
Argo Group responded with another statement, alleging that Voce Capital “continues to make false and misleading statements” and is seeking to distract investors from Argo’s “proven track record of delivering value for shareholders.”
Additionally, Argo said Voce’s “narrative” is “poorly researched” with the latest accusations being “simply wrong.”
Argo said it has previously disclosed spending less than $1 million annually over the past five years for named sponsorships. The company added that Voce’s flight log refers to “an aircraft that was neither owned by Argo, nor exclusively used by Argo.”
The company added that any executive that uses corporate aircraft for personal trips does so at his or her own expense.
Voce first made public its accusations against Argo’s spending practices in February, accusing Argo’s board of directors of supporting a luxury home, excessive corporate jet travel and a pricy corporate art collection for Watson. Voce made its accusations about two board member appointments a few weeks later.
Argo quickly denied any spending abuses, framing Voce as an outsider that is pushing “a short-term agenda” and has only accumulated stock in the Bermuda-based property/casualty specialty insurer and reinsurer in recent months.
Source: Argo Group, Voce
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