Tata Sons responds to Cyrus Mistry

It is a matter of deep regret that a communication marked confidential to Tata Sons board members has been made public in an unseemly and undignified manner. The correspondence makes unsubstantiated claims and malicious allegations, casting aspersions on the Tata group, the Tata Sons board and several Tata companies and some respected individuals. These will be responded to in an appropriate manner.

Mr. Cyrus Mistry, the former Chairman of Tata Sons, has been on the Board of the Company since 2006. He was appointed Deputy Chairman in November, 2011, and formally appointed Chairman of Tata Sons on December 28, 2012. He would be fully familiar with the culture, ethos, governance structure, financial and operational imperatives of the Tata Group as well as various group companies. As the Executive Chairman, he was fully empowered to lead the group and its companies. It is unfortunate that it is only on his removal that allegations and misrepresentation of facts are being made about business decisions that the former Chairman was party to for over a decade in different capacities. The record, as and when made public, will prove things to the contrary.

Efforts are now being made to level accusations against individuals and company boards for ignoring corporate governance norms that were supposedly upheld by the former Chairman while in office. The Tata Sons board gives its Chairman complete autonomy to manage opportunities and challenges. However, the tenure of the former Chairman was marked by repeated departures from the culture and ethos of the group.

The Board of Directors of Tata Sons is composed of several eminent personalities from all walks of life. This is not a group of people who one would expect to act without exercising proper judgement in the best interests of the entities they sit on the boards of. It is unfortunate that Mr. Mistry had overwhelmingly lost the confidence of the Members of the Board of Directors for a combination of several factors. The Directors of the Tata Sons board had repeatedly raised queries and concerns on certain business issues, and Trustees of the Tata Trusts were increasingly getting concerned with the growing trust deficit with Mr. Mistry, but these were not being addressed. The Tata Sons board, in its collective wisdom, took the decision to replace its Chairman in the manner undertaken.

The strength of the Group is not just confined to its value system and ethics in the Board room but to a very large extent by the adherence to the values by its 600,000 plus employees whose spirit and cooperation has built the Group to where it is today. It is unforgivable that Mr. Mistry has attempted to besmirch the image of the Group in the eyes of the employees.

It will be beneath the dignity of Tata Sons to engage in a public spat with regard to the several unfounded allegations appearing in his leaked confidential statement. These allegations are not based on facts or the true state of affairs. It is convenient to put selective information in the public domain to defend one’s point of view. There is a multitude of records to show that the allegations made by Mr. Cyrus Mistry are unwarranted and these records will be duly disclosed before appropriate forums, if and when necessary, sufficiently justifying the decision made by responsible Boards of Directors, of Tata Sons and its Group companies.

The Interim Chairman in his first interaction with senior leaders has stressed to them the need to continue on focusing on building great businesses while emphasising on delivering strong shareholder returns. Board members of Tata Sons have in the past stressed on the need to be more decisively focused on bringing down debt, sharpening focus on both the portfolio and capital efficiency.

The Tata Group is proud of its rich legacy of contributing to the growth of the nation. During a long history, it has faced many challenges and the employees of this group have worked hard to create great companies, and deliver shareholder value. The Tata way is to not run away from problems, or constantly complain about them, but firmly deal with them and build a better tomorrow.

A Father’s advice to his daughter

From: Arthur Zeikel (Father)

To: Jill Anne Zeikel (Daughter)

Date: Oct. 17, 1994

Re: Managing Your Own Portfolio

Personal portfolio management is not a competitive sport. It is, instead, an important individualized effort to achieve some predetermined financial goal by balancing one’s risk-tolerance level with the desire to enhance capital wealth. Good investment management practices are complex and time consuming, requiring discipline, patience, and consistency of application. Too many investors fail to follow some simple, time-tested tenets that improve the odds of achieving success and, at the same time, reduce the anxiety naturally associated with an uncertain undertaking.

I hope the following advice will help:

A fool and his money are soon parted. Investment capital becomes a perishable commodity if not handled properly. Be serious. Pay attention to your financial affairs. Take an active, intensive interest. If you don’t, why should anyone else?

There is no free lunch. Risk and return are interrelated. Set reasonable objectives using history as a guide. All returns relate to inflation. Better to be safe than sorry. Never up, never in. Most investors underestimate the stress of a high-risk portfolio on the way down.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify. Asset allocation determines the rate of return. Stocks beat bonds over time.

Never overreach for yield. Remember, leverage works both ways. More money has been lost searching for yield than at the point of a gun (Ray DeVoe).

Spend interest, never principal, If at all possible, take out less than comes in. Then a portfolio grows in value and lasts forever. The other way around, it can be diminished quite rapidly.

You cannot eat relative performance. Measure results on a total return, portfolio basis against your own objectives, not someone else’s.

Don’t be afraid to take a loss. Mistakes are part of the game. The cost price of a security is a matter of historical insignificance, of interest only to the IRS. Averaging down, which is different from dollar cost averaging, means the first decision was a mistake. It is a technique used to avoid admitting a mistake or to recover a loss against the odds. When in doubt, get out. The first loss is not only the best but is also usually the smallest.

Watch out for fads. Hula hoops and bowling alleys (among others) didn’t last. There are no permanent shortages (or oversupplies). Every trend creates its own countervailing force. Expect the unexpected.

Act. Make decisions. No amount of information can remove all uncertainty. Have confidence in your moves. Better to be approximately right than precisely wrong.

Take the long view. Don’t panic under short-term transitory developments. Stick to your plan. Prevent emotion from overtaking reason. Market timing generally doesn’t work. Recognize the rhythm of events.

Remember the value of common sense. No system works all of the time. History is a guide, not a template.

This is all you really need to know.

Love,

Dad

When this article was originally published in 1995, Arthur Zeikel was president of Merrill Lynch Asset Management in New Jersey