Magda Wierzycka, CEO of Sygnia Group. (Picture: Getty Images)
  • The Institute of Race Relations has asked 15 fund managers and banks for their views on prescribed assets.
  • It is unsatisfied with the vast majority of positions, and plans to bring companies' positions to the attention of the public.
  • What happens then is not up to it, the IRR says.
  • But Sygnia CEO Magda Wierzycka has launched an attack on the IRR, accusing the organisation of threatening her. 
  • For more stories visit Business Insider South Africa.

The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) contacted 15 fund managers and banks to gauge their stance on prescribed assets - and is only satisfied with the engagements it had with two of the large companies. 

The rest gave "dodgy" responses, or are sitting on the fence about the issue, says deputy head of policy research at the IRR Hermann Pretorius.

Government has been mulling prescribed assets for some time, which will basically force fund managers to invest a percentage of retirement savings in sanctioned investments, like infrastructure projects, or in bonds issued by the South African government and state-owned enterprises like Eskom.

The IRR is planning to make public the responses it received from the companies - but its project encountered heated resistance from Sygnia CEO Magda Wierzycka 

In a series of tweets on Monday, Wierzycka accused the IRR of threatening her for not responding to the letter sent to her in August, demanding to know where her company stands on prescribed assets.

In her tweets, Wierzycka, who started by saying she is “always amazed when… blatantly threatened”, said Sygnia had been “threatened with a social media campaign against corporations which don’t answer their questions."

“Prescribed assets are not on the table right now. If they are we will play our part to protect the savings of South Africans. Threats are never OK,” she said.

Wierzycka reiterated the company’s position on the issue with a tweet saying “Sygnia will oppose any attempt at re-introduction of prescribed assets should it become clear that there is where we are heading.”

In the letter, subsequently published in full by the IRR, the lobbying group says it “will be launching a social media campaign identifying individual corporate entities, such as Sygnia Asset Management, and seeking to provide clarity to members of the public as to whether such entities are likely or unlikely to act in the best interests of their clients in opposing prescribed assets”

That isn't a threat, says the IRR's Pretorius.

“Our role is to find the truth and give as much transparency on these important issues. What we will do is put the information out there on which companies are in favour, which companies are against, which companies are on the fence and then [leave it to] South Africans to decide what to do,” he said.

The IRR “will not be pulling an EFF," he said, in reference to the political party's protests outside Clicks stores, but it insists that corporate South Africa "has a responsibility to tell their clients that… they are on the side of those who worked hard to save money and to build up pensions rather than the risk of possibly making these available to government to fund government expenditure."

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