First Super threatens to drop fund manager over workplace claims

“There has been dialogue and engagement at the highest level … We don’t think they have responded satisfactorily to our concerns,” he said.

Mr Watson has now given Orbis “a number of months” to meet their demands or they will cut ties with the asset manager altogether. Orbis declined to comment.

“Our members want us to do two things – make money for them, that’s our job,” Mr Watson said. “But also to do it in a responsible manner.”

If anything bad happens to XPO, that’s going to have a direct impact on our member returns.”

First Super chief executive Bill Watson

XPO shares have increased 24 per cent so far in 2019, compared with a rise of about 18 per cent for the broader US sharemarket.

Mr Watson pointed to an incident conveyed to him to by unions in which an XPO worker was allegedly left under a cardboard box after dying from a heart attack at a distribution centre. “The worker died, the allegations are there were delays in getting an ambulance and workers were asked to continue to work around him,” he said.


XPO has strongly denied the claim, noting “911 was immediately called and the area was cleared for first responders”.

The XPO spokesman also said there was an investigation into the allegations that eight workers at a company warehouse in Memphis were sexually harassed, but said these claims were found to be unsubstantiated.

XPO has about 100,000 employees spread across 30 countries.

First Super is concerned the company could be facing similar workplace problems in Italy and France, where Mr Watson said there are a number of civil suits underway against the company for breaching laws around employee payments.

“So what we’re worried about is whether there are systemic issues as to whether XPO’s business model is unsustainable,” Mr Watson said.

“If anything bad happens to XPO, that’s going to have a direct impact on our member returns”.

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