Why should a CFO bring a voice recorder to a board meeting?

CFOs sometimes do outrageous, weird or wrong things. Sometimes they do dubious things, but they have a good reason for it. I am wondering if South African Airways CFO Wolf Meyer's decision to smuggle a recording device into the boardroom qualifies as the latter?

Meyer has been one of the few stable factors at a high level at SAA, steering the struggling ship financially since 2011. Recently, he apparently felt the need to use a recording device during a meeting with board members. He told the Sunday Times that he wanted to record conversations "to protect himself".

From what?

According to the Sunday paper SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni doesn't trust Meyer and acting CEO Nico Bezuidenhout anymore. She apparently has hired a private bodyguard, who searches board members before meetings. Cellphones and notes made during meetings were allegedly confiscated. According to SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali Myeni has no problem with the board. He did, however, say that the use of Meyer's recording device "took board members by surprise".

"Even more astonishing was the suggestion that [the CFO's recording device] was intended for the protection of the CFO. The board found this a rather bizarre justification of the CFO's conduct." - SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali

Myeni has a very close relationship with president Zuma. She has been accused of corruption by former CEO Monwabisi Kalawe, but those allegations were never substantiated. It is worrying that Meyer feels the need "to protect himself" and record conversations between board members. Minutes of board meetings should be readily available to all participants. The CFO's actions, however, implies that this simple administrative mechanism can't be trusted.

Perhaps the CFO should ask himself if he should be willing to work in such an environment? On LinkedIn, Meyer lists game fishing, cycling, farming and hunting as his interests. I am not in a position to see what is going exactly at SAA, but perhaps it is time for a break.

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