Four members of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) executive board were left unaware of the issues which led to the standing aside of their chairman, James Shipton, until little more than a month before it occurred.
What is more, the Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Technology, Senator Jane Hume, has confirmed that she was unaware of the issue until hours before Shipton and his deputy chair, Daniel Crennan, declared they would be standing aside on Friday, last week.
The manner in which the matters surrounding the payment of a $118,000 tax advice fee for Shipton were kept from the knowledge of other members of the ASIC board were laid bare during Senate Estimates late yesterday, as those Commissioner, led by deputy chair, Karen Chester, sought to maintain a business as usual approach within the regulator.
What also became clear is that there is a bipartisan view that, notwithstanding an independent inquiry commissioned by the Treasury, Shipton’s position may not be survival.
Both the Liberal acting chairman of the Senate Economics Committee, Senator James Shipton and Federal Opposition frontbencher, Katy Gallagher, expressed strong views about the ASIC chairman’s future position.
Gallagher described ASIC having “a bigger problem than an expenses scandal”.
“How realistic is it that the corporate cop survives?” she asked.
Earlier, the acting chairman of the Senate Economics Legislation Committee, Senator James Patterson said that it was clear to him that ASIC’s leadership structure was “a total mess that did not have its own house in order”.
Asked when she became aware of the issues within the ASIC leaders, Hume said that it was the previous Friday, the day of the announcement, when she had received a call from the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg.
Pressed by Gallagher, she said that she did not think it was a problem “that I was not brought into the loop on this”.
ASIC’s Chester confirmed for Gallagher that while Shipton had stood aside he was on paid leave and would remain so until the Treasury’s independent review had been completed.