The events leading up to the departure of Alex Malley from CPA Australia and the resignation of members of the board have been cited as reasons why the Government should pursue changes to the Corporations Act requiring the collection of email addresses by organisations and public companies.
One of the prime movers in the events which wracked CPA Australia earlier this year, accountant Brett Stevenson, has used a submission to the Senate Economics Committee inquiry into the Modernisation of Member Registers to argue that the task of bringing the problems within CPA Australia to the attention of members would have been made easier if he and his supporters could have accessed e-mail addresses.
Discussing the issues in his submission, Stevenson said they had been “so significant that recently the CEO was sacked, seven of the 12 directors have resigned including the chairman, an independent review is currently being conducted into the organisation, and ASIC [the Australian Securities and Investments Commission] is currently investigating various matters at CPA Australia”.
“My, and other members’, contention is that these issues have arisen because the board and senior management at CPA have held power with an effective gerrymandering of the corporate governance process,” his submission claimed.
“While this is all going on we have been unable to communicate these matters with the members.
We forced CPA to provide us with the members register (costing us $2,300) so we could
communicate with them however the email addresses of members were not provided because they
are not required by law to be kept in the members register even though it is the primary means of
communication with members.”
“Thus, our only mode of communication was via traditional mail which would have cost us in the vicinity of $180,000 to send a simple letter of explanation of our concerns,” Stevenson told the committee.
“The irony is that just after CPA provided me with the Members Register they emailed all the
members (at virtually zero cost to themselves) to say that they did not trust the security of the
information in my hands even though the act clearly says it is a criminal offence to use the register
for improper purposes (which they implied I would do).”
Stevenson claimed the lack of the need to include email addresses in the members register in CPA Australia had “prevented member engagement and participation in the corporate governance of our organisation, and more importantly has stymied such efforts by creating a very uneven and unfair playing field such that shareholders (members) are at a significant disadvantage”.
“The fundamental issue involved in including emails in the members register is to provide a mode of
communication which has become both normative and cost effective in the 21st century,” he said.
“There may be good reasons to continue to use traditional mail and printed materials for some
companies but I think it would be difficult to suggest that the internet with websites and emails are
not the mainstream form of communication for most companies and individuals today.”