Bell Pottinger has breached PRCA code - but full decision still to come

PRWeek can confirm that the PRCA's Professional Practices Committee (PPC) has concluded that Bell Pottinger has breached the trade body's code of conduct in its work for controversial South African client Oakbay Investments.

The body held a hearing into the agency's conduct on Friday (18 August), following a complaint by South African political party the Democratic Alliance.

The PRCA said ahead of that hearing that if the PPC were to reject the complaint, then this would be announced by the end of yesterday (23 August).

No such announcement has been made.

The PRCA will publish the committee's decision in the week commencing Monday, 4 September. Bell Pottinger will be given an opportunity to appeal.

PRCA director general Francis Ingham told PRWeek today: "Our final decision on this case will be made once it has been through the full and balanced process set out in our Professional Charter and Codes of Conduct, including any appeals. We can’t comment further while the process is ongoing."

In July, Bell Pottinger dismissed partner Victoria Geoghegan and suspended three further staff as it apologised for having run an "inappropriate and offensive" campaign for Oakbay.

It is alleged that Bell Pottinger's work was designed to create racial division in order to strengthen the position of the country's president Jacob Zuma, who has links to the Gupta family, which owns Oakbay. However, the PRCA's disciplinary process is markedly narrower in scope - the Democratic Alliance's complaint accused the firm of breaching 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.

• Bell Pottinger today told PRWeek that a report last night saying CEO James Henderson had resigned was incorrect.

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