The outgoing chair of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) James Shipton has confirmed retaining a phalanx of senior lawyers to defend his position in the face of the issues raised last year by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) about payment for his personal tax advice.
During a recent hearing of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services, Shipton confirmed he had retained the services of two Queen’s Counsels and two other lawyers with the objective of clearing his name with respect to issues raised by the ANAO over the payment of expenses.
Under questioning for Labor backbencher, Deborah O’Neill, Shipton insisted that rather than being stood aside last year by the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, he had offered to stand aside pending the outcome of an investigation into his expenses and those of his former ASIC deputy chair, Daniel Crennan QC.
Shipton said he had retained the high-powered lawyers because of the matters which had been raised by the ANAO.
“It's a matter of public record. They have been named in the press already, so I don't think there's any harm in releasing their names. They were James Peters QC and Philip Crutchfield QC. And I engaged Dominic Gatto, of King and Wood Mallesons, and was assisted by barrister Nicholas Walter,” the ASIC chairman said.
O’Neill responded that “for the many ordinary Australians who have no engagement with the legal system—many of them couldn't afford to do it—that's a pretty heavy-hitting team that you took with you to the Treasurer's office”.
Shipton confirmed that he had paid for the lawyers himself.
“Given that this was a personal engagement, I would prefer to keep that information private. It was an engagement in a personal capacity, not in my public capacity,” he said.
Shipton will depart his role as chairman of ASIC when the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, names a replacement – something which is expected to occur after the Federal Budget in May.