QBE boss forfeits $10m worth of share rights after abrupt exit

Former QBE chief executive Pat Regan has forfeited share rights worth more than $9 million after his shock exit from the insurer following a complaint by a female employee.

In a statement to the ASX on Wednesday, QBE said Mr Regan finished with the company on Tuesday and will receive a payment of $310,000, in lieu of a reduced notice period, and his statutory leave entitlements.

Pat Regan was found to have breached QBE’s code of conduct. Credit:Renee Nowytarger

The chief executive's high-profile exit follows a complaint from a female employee last month which led the board to find he had breached the insurer's code of conduct.

Mr Regan will not receive any grants from the insurer's incentive scheme this year and all of his unvested conditional rights under the Incentive Schemes will lapse immediately, in accordance with plan rules, said QBE.

Mr Regan held rights over 773,138 shares and owned more than 915,000 shares outright which are currently worth $8.6 million. QBE's annual report showed that the "maximum value of award to vest" for Mr Regan as of December 31 was worth just over $9 million. Mr Regan has since received more share awards in the 2020 calendar year.

He received remuneration totalling $4.43 million for the year ending December 31, 2019, which included $2.1 million worth of conditional rights.

His base salary jumped from $2.1 million to $2.2 million this calendar year.

QBE last week said Mr Regan was leaving the insurer, with chairman Mike Wilkins to fill in as executive chairman, following an external investigation into certain communications in the workplace.

QBE explained Mr Regan's abrupt exit by referring to a code of conduct breach regarding communication in the workplace and "poor judgement" from Mr Regan, but did not provide details of what its investigation had found.

The move drew criticism from some of its investors.

Allan Gray portfolio manager Simon Mawhinney, who last month attacked AMP’s board over the company’s handling of a harassment complaint, said: "QBE's decision … is another example of poor corporate transparency. The board has kept shareholders in the dark about the reasons and as shareholders we are therefore unable to assess the appropriateness of this significant decision."

Standard & Poor's said the exit of Mr Regan, which came after some other recent executive departures, raised uncertainty about culture and governance at QBE and could harm continuity.

QBE shares dropped 4 per cent to $9.39 Wednesday morning and have fallen more than 24 per cent in 2020 against a 10 per cent drop for the ASX 200.

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