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Argo shareholder Voce amps up pressure in dispute

Posted On: Apr. 24, 2019 3:14 PM CST

Shareholders

Voce Capital Management LLC, a San Francisco-based hedge fund with a 5.8% stake in Argo Group International Holdings Ltd., on Wednesday said it will release a plan next week outlining how to improve return on equity at Argo and unlock “substantial” shareholder value.

In a statement, Voce urged shareholders to vote for its five independent director candidates that it has nominated for election to the board of directors at the company’s upcoming 2019 annual meeting to be held on May 24. 

Voce also commented on recent statements made by Argo in an April 12 letter to shareholders, saying the letter is “replete with selective and misleading attempts to explain away the multitude of issues that Voce has raised with respect to the company’s excessive expenses and misuse of corporate assets.”

Voce said Bermuda-based Argo’s responses raise yet more questions to which “shareholders deserve honest and complete answers.”

No amount of stock price gains can justify the “the personal use of corporate assets by senior management,” including a fleet of three aircraft and a global network of corporate housing for personal use by its CEO, Voce said in the statement.

Voce said it had uncovered more “questionable allocations of capital” by Argo related to “lavish” corporate-owned apartments in Miami, in addition to New York City and the Bermuda mansion where Argo CEO Mark Watson lives, and questioned why Argo has not “come clean” about its corporate housing program.

Voce also questioned what percentage of flights on corporate aircraft were used to transport Mr. Watson for personal purposes, or for a mix of personal and professional travel.

“The multi-million dollar annual expense for a company of Argo’s size to carry such aircraft is completely unjustified,” it said in the statement, which included a link to corporate flight logs.

Voce also took aim at Argo’s board of directors, saying its recent appointments of two directors to the board “should be rescinded and all actions taken by the Board with their participation annulled.”

A spokesman for Argo did not have an immediate response.

He referred back to the company’s April 12 shareholder letter and statement posted on its website.

In that letter, Argo pointed to Voce’s “poorly researched claims with little regard for the truth.”