Brazilian ex-minister may be ousted from investment trust

A former finance minister of Brazil today faces the indignity of being removed as a director of the Brazilian Smaller Companies Investment Trust in the midst of the latest row over corporate governance. Andrew Verity reports.

Mailson Da Nobrega is among six directors of an investment trust who face a humiliating vote today to remove them from the board of the pounds 45m investment trust, known as Brazit, at an extraordinary general meeting.

Other directors include Michael Hart, director-general of the Association of Investment Trust Companies, Fred Packard, a founding partner of Garantia, a Brazilian investment bank, Desmond Cameron and Peter Burnell, both of Dresdner Kleinwort Benson.

Hermes, the investment house which manages BT's pounds 20bn pension fund, has linked up with City of London, a former asset manager, to vote out the entire board of Brazit. The two fund managers together hold a stake of more than 60 per cent.

Hermes claims the board of Brazit failed to condemn a decision by the trust's investment managers, Foreign & Colonial Emerging Markets, to buy 19 per cent of warrants in the trust - potentially allowing F&C to resist pressure to remove them as managers. The decision outraged the majority shareholders, who had already clashed with the board over plans to revamp Brazit and turn it into a unit trust.

Brazit's directors yesterday launched a strident counter-attack on Hermes and City of London, saying they had always acted in the interests of all shareholders. "We thought it was better to deal with F&C rather than just fire the managers in the middle of the worst bear market in memory," said one director, who asked not to be named.

Michael Hart, who has already offered to resign, said: "This is all about some people thinking investment trusts are a load of rubbish which should all be wound up. Part of the problem is that Hermes have just gone completely over the top on corporate governance."