The Australian CEO of insurance firm QBE, John Neal, has reportedly lost A$550,000 ($586,390) of his bonus after the board learned of a secret relationship the business leader had with a secretary.

It is the second high-profile controversy involving a company CEO and a work colleague after news broke of Channel Seven CEO Tim Worner's tumultuous relationship with former assistant Amber Harrison.

Information about QBE was posted to investors in a note in the company's remuneration report, Fairfax reported.

Neal separated from his wife before the relationship with the secretary began. Fairfax reported that the secretary is still employed by QBE but is understood to be leaving the company by choice.

Advertisement

Neal, who has been CEO for almost five years, was set to receive a short-term bonus of A$2.76 million ($2.9m) for the 2016 financial year. However, the group's just released annual report shows that the bonus was cut by 20 per cent to A$2.21m ($2.35m) due to Neal's "personal decisions".

Over 2016 Neal's total pay was A$3m ($3.2m).

"The Group CEO has had a commendable year and delivered a strong full year result for QBE. His performance is well regarded by the board. However, both parties agree some recent personal decisions by the CEO have been inconsistent with the board's expectations," read a company statement.

The bonus cut for Neal comes as he seeks to finalise the exit of his group chief operating officer Colin Fagen from the group earlier this month. Fagen has reportedly engaged workplace law firm Harmers to work on his behalf towards amid discussions over his shock exit.