PRCA to hold hearing with Bell Pottinger over Oakbay work next month

Bell Pottinger has been summoned to appear at a hearing at the PRCA next month following a complaint by the Democratic Alliance political party about its work with South African client Oakbay Investments.

The industry body's Professional Practices Committee has scheduled a hearing for Friday, 18 August, it confirmed today.

The sanctions available to the committee include suspending or terminating membership and publicly censuring a member.

Both sides will be asked to appear at the London hearing either in person, or through a representative.

The hearing is likely to be held behind closed doors, with the PRCA's procedures specifying that it will be held in private "unless otherwise agreed by all parties" - including the committee members.

The PRCA has set aside the morning for oral contributions from both parties, after which the committee, chaired by Adrian Wheeler, will deliberate.

Francis Ingham, director general of the PRCA, said: "Both the Democratic Alliance and Bell Pottinger are now required to provide full evidence to the Committee ahead of this hearing. We want to thank both sides again for their cooperation so far."

The DA's complaint, detailed in a letter dated 30 June, alleges that Bell Pottinger breached the trade body's Code of Conduct's provisions on carrying out work "without causing offence" as well as those on the protection of the reputation of the industry and the PRCA itself.

Since then, the agency has sacked a partner and admitted that it had promoted an "inappropriate and offensive" narrative for the former client, been criticised by its founder and been the subject of protests by South Africans outside its office.

Bell Pottinger has commissioned a law firm to complete an independent audit of its work on the account. It expects this to be completed "in the coming weeks", CEO James Henderson said last week.

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