Ousted Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry on Tuesday gave a new turn to the ongoing boardroom battle at the Tata Group by specifying the legal dispute with Japan’s NTT DoCoMo, and reiterating that the board of Tata Sons and representatives of Tata Trusts were duly informed about the litigation.
Since the issue was sub-judice and did not feature in comments made by Tata Sons on Mistry’s four-year tenure, the Tata Group was quick to respond that the issue was being raked up unnecessarily.
“Insinuations are being imagined. The issue is sub-judice and we cannot comment any further,” a Tata Sons spokesperson said.
Earlier, Mistry’s office said: “Insinuations that the DoCoMo issue was handled under the watch of Mr Mistry in a manner inconsistent with Tata culture and values are baseless. The suggestion that Ratan Tata and the trustees would not have approved of the manner in which the litigation was conducted is contrary to what transpired.”
Tata Sons and its erstwhile telecom joint venture DoCoMo are currently embroiled in a legal dispute regarding alleged violation of a contract by the Tatas on buying out the Japanese company’s stake in the telecom joint venture. The International Court of Arbitration had asked the Tatas to pay $1.17 billion, following which, the group deposited the amount in an escrow amount with the Delhi High Court.
“A number of discussions on the DoCoMo situation had been held in the Tata Sons board. Mr Mistry had always mentioned that the Tatas should honour all commitments within the law,” said the statement from Mistry’s office. “Tatas, under Mr Mistry, requested DoCoMo to join in seeking approval of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). DoCoMo did not agree. Nevertheless, Tatas applied to the RBI for approval. Since RBI approval was not forthcoming, DoCoMo initiated arbitration. The (arbitration) award was passed in favour of DoCoMo. Tatas under Mr Mistry did not challenge the award in the UK.
“Throughout the process, Ratan Tata and NA Soonawala, trustee, (Tata Trusts) were kept informed…They participated in the meeting with the legal counsel and who represented Tatas in the litigation. In light of the above facts, to suggest that Mr Mistry acted on his own, or contrary to “Tata values”, or without the knowledge and concurrence of Ratan Tata and Soonawala, is as false as it is mischievous,” Mistry’s statement added.
The dispute, which fuelled concerns overseas about Indian companies not honouring contractual agreements and also triggered strong statements from the Japanese company, has been widely cited as one of the probable differences that representatives of Tata Trusts may have had with Mistry, and which eventually led to Mistry being voted out as chairman. The Tata Group did not make a direct reference to the issue.