Ousted James Hardie CEO Rejects Allegations Behind Dismissal
(Bloomberg) -- Jack Truong, who was last week fired as chief executive officer of Australian building-materials maker James Hardie Industries Plc, says he “unequivocally” rejects the company’s assertions that he created a hostile work environment.
Truong, who had been in the job less than three years, was dismissed after multiple employees raised concerns about his “threatening and intimidating behavior,” the company said Jan. 7. After an initial investigation, Truong was given the opportunity to address the issues and change his behavior, but it was clear “sincere change” did not occur, Chairman Mike Hammes said.
In a brief statement Monday, Truong defended his performance, saying under his leadership sales and profit grew substantially, and the share price more than tripled. The stock fell about 4% in Sydney trading on Friday after Truong’s dismissal.
“I was blindsided by the termination and unequivocally reject the assertions made by Mr. Hammes and the company,” he said.
In response, a spokesperson for James Hardie said Monday that the board had provided clear feedback and counseling on the impact Truong’s behaviors were having on colleagues on “multiple occasions.” The board ultimately had to make the difficult decision to terminate his employment in the best interests of the company and its people, the spokesperson said.
Truong’s abrupt departure shows companies are becoming more responsive to investor concerns about behavior that previously may have been tolerated or ignored, with the #MeToo movement throwing a spotlight on sexual harassment and the focus on ESG forcing boards to uphold corporate governance standards.
James Hardie shares fell 4.1% in Sydney trading Friday after Truong’s dismissal was announced. The stock was down a further 0.5% to A$51.28 in afternoon trading Monday.
While not illegal or discriminatory, Truong’s behavior was “not respectful to the individual” and remained inconsistent with James Hardie’s code of conduct, the company said. Several executives told the board that they intended to resign or were actively considering doing so, Hammes said last week.
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