In my opinion piece ‘Who is Governing’ published on 4 October 2018 I acknowledged the regulators, ASIC and APRA have not always met community expectations. I also highlighted boards have strict accountability for governing in the best interest of their organisations and I said, “The time has come for the directors and boards who are accountable for ensuring the proper and ethical function of our corporations to take back control”.
Boards not only have a statutory obligation to govern in the best interest of their organisations, they have an ethical one as well and need to champion strict legal and regulatory compliance. In doing so, boards will show their dedication to instilling a culture of leading practice governance within corporate Australia as well as commitment to a professional relationship with the corporate and prudential regulators.
Professor Andy Schmulow of the University of Wollongong (Australian Financial Review, pp 13,17, 22 October 2018) says the corporate and prudential regulators have become culturally and intellectually captured by the banks and should be made to answer to a British style financial oversight committee. Professor Schmulow is rightly very critical of ASIC and APRA for not enforcing the law. Commissioner Hayne has made it very clear what the regulators should have done and should do. However, do we really want a regulator regulating the regulators? No, is the resounding answer, in my view.
We certainly need the current culture of greed and unconscionable behaviour within corporations to be eliminated. We need to return trust in our corporations to consumers. The Productivity Commission argues that corporate Australia is missing a consumer champion. Professor Graeme Samuel the former ACCC chairman argued today at the Customer Owned Banking Association Convention that it is the power of competition which will bring about change in culture. I argue that we need boards to take back control, to drive cultural integrity, ensure the highest level of ethics and instil a practice of strict compliance with the law, regulation and codes of conduct.