LafargeHolcim CEO to resign in wake of Syria armed opposition payouts

Chief Executive Eric Olsen will leave the company in July, the world’s largest cement maker said on Monday, in the wake of an investigation into allegations the company paid armed groups in Syria to keep a plant operating.

The company admitted in March that its plant in Jallabiya probably paid protection money to keep running in the war-torn country.

Olsen’s resignation follows the conclusion of an internal investigation and highlights the dilemmas companies face when working in conflict zones.

The company said on Monday that its internal investigation found that payments had indeed been made, which it said was not in line with its policies.

It said a number of measures taken to continue safe operations at the plant were “unacceptable”, and “significant errors of judgement were made that contravened the applicable code of conduct”.

French prosecutors are also investigating the cement group’s activities in Syria. Olsen was formerly an executive at French industrial group Lafarge, which completed its merger with Swiss group Holcim in 2015.

LafargeHolcim’s investigation found that though these measures were instigated by local and regional management, some members of group management were aware of the situation, indicating Lafarge’s code of business conduct had been violated.

But it cleared Olsen, who has led the combined company since 2015, of wrongdoing.

“Following an in-depth review, the board has concluded that Eric Olsen was not responsible for, nor thought to be aware of, any wrongdoings that have been identified as part of its review,” the company said.

Still, Olsen said he was resigning from the company, effective from 15 July.

“While I was absolutely not involved in, nor even aware of, any wrongdoing I believe my departure will contribute to bringing back serenity to a company that has been exposed for months on this case,” he said.

– Reuters