honestbee chairman Brian Koo resigns, company still owes SG$1m in unpaid salary

Honestbee's chairman Brian Koo has resigned from the company, days before honestbee CEO Ong Lay Ann filed for an affidavit for delays in staff salaries amounting to about SG$1 million, said an article on The Straits Times. The article added that honestbee currently owes about SG$1 million in salary to over 200 former honestbee staff.

The affidavit, filed by honestbee CEO Ong, said that the company has yet to pay 217 employees salary which amounts to SG$987,995.46. The ST article also said that about 39 of the former employees have filed claims with Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) for their unpaid salaries. A TADM spokesperson said in the article that the organisation is currently "monitoring the payment schedule closely" and is willing to advise and aid employees in settlement agreements.

In a statement to Marketing, an honestbee spokesperson said the company fully intends to honour salary payments to its employees and clarified that the salaries of current employees are unaffected. According to the spokesperson, only ex-employees will be subject to a payment scheme, which the company views as a sensible recourse given its financial standing.

"The payment scheme is being developed with ex-employees, and MOM has been kept appraised of the situation. It will be paid across five tranches with the first intended payment planned for 30 September 2019," the spokesperson added. The spokesperson declined to comment on Marketing's queries about the unpaid salary.

ST reported that chairman Koo resigned officially two weeks ago. Prior to him stepping down from the board, Ong stated in the filing that Koo invested about SG$895,000 in the firm. According to the article, the amount on top of the US$2 million Koo initially put into the company, was used for rent and employee salaries. Koo is also the founder of venture capital firm Formation 8, and has established InnovationHub, which helped LS Group manage relationships and find investment opportunities in energy and technology sectors.

The issue of delay in salary was also raised earlier this year, and confirmed by a honestbee spokesperson then to Marketing. The spokesperson had said that the delays were communicated to staff as the management team looks to remain transparent by communicating to staff on payment issues.

The company recently has underwent several changes in management and operations. Co-founder and CTO Jonathan Low resigned from his positions in July this year. Low co-founded the company in 2015, led the engineering team in both Singapore and Taiwan, as well as supported the development of honestbee’s products over the years. Shortly before that, VP of marketing, Christina Lim exited the company. In her one-year stint with honestbee, Lim was tasked to lead the marketing team to ramp up its integrated efforts to drive brand awareness and loyalty across all its business verticals.