Nusli Wadia sues Tata Sons for libel and defamation

MUMBAI,Nov22: Nusli Wadia, director at Tata Steel for nearly four decades, demanded on Monday that Tata Sons, the steel maker’s parent, withdraw its November 11 notice to remove him from his post. Alternatively , he wants Tata Sons to prove its “false and defamatory” allegations in the notice, one of which claimed that he was acting with Cyrus Mistry against the Tata Group.

Wadia also warned Tata Sons he might initiate civil and criminal proceedings if it did not withdraw the notice or failed to prove its charges.

In a letter to Tata Sons board members, including Mistry, Wadia said he was accused of galvanising independent directors and “acting prejudicially”. On November 10, Wadia, along with other independent directors, had supported Mistry’s chairmanship at Tata Chemicals. Wadia believes this act of Tata Chemicals’ independent directors prompted Tata Sons to turn “vindictive” and remove him from the board of Tata Steel. He said that the Tata Sons resolution to remove him from Tata Steel board was done “with great haste within hours of the Tata Chemicals board meeting”.

Wadia alleged that Tata Sons and its board of directors were “pursuing a personal vendetta” against him for discharging the duties of an independent director.
Wadia said that he had always acted with “total independence of mind, long before it became a requirement to do so under any law in India”.He said that JRD Tata was his mentor and godfather and that he had conducted himself with the values he had imbibed from JRD. He said his relationship with Ratan Tata went back several decades and he was “shocked and surprised that one of the first acts of the board of Tata Sons after he became its interim chairman was to move a resolution seeking my removal”. In his eight-page letter, he countered Tata Sons’ allegations that he had galvanized independent directors, saying if that were true, it would mean all other independent directors at Tata Steel had failed to perform their “fiduciary duties” and “were looking for direction only from me”.

Wadia said that false statements against him had coloured the minds of shareholders and the public at large, causing serious injury to his reputation and diminishing his respect and goodwill. Outside of the Tata Group, Wadia is the chairman of Bombay Dyeing and Britannia Industries. As an independent director, he said, his fiduciary duty was to Tata Steel and not “an undefined Tata Group”.
The notice to remove Wadia from Tata Steel board had a total of six allegations against him. He termed those allegations “baseless, false, defamatory and libelous”.
A Tata Sons spokesperson confirmed receipt of Wadia’s letter. “We will respond appropriately,” the person said. Besides proposing Wadia’s removal from the board of Tata Steel, the holding company of the Tata Group has also moved similar resolutions to oust him from Tata Motors and Tata Chemicals.