PRCA expels Bell Pottinger after South Africa investigation

The investigation followed a complaint from the Democratic Alliance

The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) announced today that it has imposed its most serious sanctions on Bell Pottinger, following the industry regulator’s investigation into Bell Pottinger’s work for Oakbay Capital in South Africa.

In a statement, PRCA said that Bell Pottinger’s membership has been terminated with immediate effect. Bell Pottinger will not be eligible to reapply for corporate membership of the PRCA for a minimum period of five years.

“Bell Pottinger has brought the PR and communications industry into disrepute with its actions, and it has received the harshest possible sanctions. The PRCA has never before passed down such a damning indictment of an agency’s behaviour. This outcome reflects the huge importance that the PRCA places on the protection of ethical standards in the business of PR and communications,” said Francis Ingham MPRCA, Director General of the PRCA.

Bell Pottinger has been found to have breached the PRCA Professional Charter and Public Affairs and Lobbying Code of Conduct, in the following respects:

  • PRCA Professional Charter clause 1.1;
  • PRCA Professional Charter clause 4;
  • PRCA Public Affairs and Lobbying Code of Conduct clause 12;
  • PRCA Public Affairs and Lobbying Code of Conduct clause 13.

The PRCA launched its investigation on 5 July, following a complaint from the Democratic Alliance. Bell Pottinger and Democratic Alliance were able to present written and oral evidence at a hearing of the PRCA Professional Practices Committee on 18 August.

The Professional Practices Committee was unanimous in its view that the Professional Charter and Codes of Conduct had been breached, and recommended to the PRCA Board of Management that Bell Pottinger’s membership be terminated. The Board approved that recommendation unanimously.

Bell Pottinger was given five days in which to appeal the Board’s decision, and submitted an appeal to the PRCA. The PRCA Board of Management met again on Monday, 4 September to make its final ruling.

You can read PRCA’s full statement here.