Former Victorian barrister Daniel Crennan QC resigned as the Deputy Chair of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) this morning amid an investigation into relocation expenses paid to him and ASIC Chair James Shipton.
The ASIC 2019-20 Annual Report included details of payments to Mr Crennan QC – “housing expenses of $69,621 were paid by ASIC, following the relocation of the Deputy Chair from Melbourne to Sydney in January 2019 at the request of ASIC’s Accountable Authority. The Deputy Chair offered and has agreed to repay the housing benefits as a debt to the Commonwealth.”
In a statement released today, Mr Crennan QC said “I had been intending to retire from my position in July 2021. However, in the current circumstances, I have decided that it is in the best interests of ASIC for me to resign now. I have therefore tendered my resignation to the Treasurer with immediate effect.”
The ASIC Annual Report also detailed payments to Mr Shipton, “the Chair has agreed to voluntarily reimburse ASIC for certain expenses ASIC paid following his 2018 relocation from the United States of America. The amount of the reimbursement is $118,557 (includes GST).”
In a statement to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, at Parliament House on Friday, Mr Shipton said:
“The ASIC 2019-20 Annual Report was tabled in Parliament earlier today.
“A note in the report identifies payments of certain relocation expenses incurred on my behalf (on my appointment and return to Australia from the US) and Deputy Chair Crennan (following an agreement that he move from Melbourne to Sydney).
“Following its audit of ASIC’s financial statements, the ANAO stated a belief that the total remuneration paid to both office holders may exceed the limits set within the relevant Remuneration Tribunal Determinations.
“ASIC has acknowledged the ANAO’s findings and accepted all relevant recommendations which include conducting an independent review of the issues raised in the ANAO report. We note the Treasurer’s announcement and will fully cooperate with that process.
“ASIC acknowledges the processes supporting the approval of these relocation expenses were inadequate and, given the high standard ASIC holds itself to, it is disappointed that such situation has occurred.
“ASIC anticipates the independent review will assist it to make appropriate changes to key policies and processes. In the interim ASIC has implemented changes to procedures associated with approval of expenses relating to geographic relocation for statutory appointees to ensure that there is Commission oversight of those expenses and that the arrangements for new statutory appointees are clearly documented prior to them being made.
“The accommodation payments for Deputy Chair Crennan were ceased following his request and he offered and agreed to repay the accommodation payments made to him as a debt due to the Commonwealth.
“ASIC acknowledges that action in relation to this matter, first raised in the ANAO’s 2018-19 Closing Report, should have taken place more promptly.
“Considering the concerns expressed by the ANAO, I will voluntarily reimburse ASIC for taxation related expenses ASIC paid following my 2018 relocation from the United States.
“At all times during consideration of this matter I have been mindful of the need to avoid any conflict of interest. I have recused myself from all relevant Commission deliberations. Where I have had to take any formal action in my role as ASIC’s Accountable Authority I have only done so on the recommendations of the other, non-recused, Commissioners. Deputy Chair Crennan has taken the same approach.
“I have advised the Treasurer this afternoon that, in the circumstances, it is appropriate to stand aside pending the outcome of the review.
“Whilst I believe that I have acted properly and appropriately in this matter, I hold myself to the highest possible standard.
“What matters is that I act with integrity and honour. That means I need to act in the best interests of ASIC and its vital purpose to build a fair, honest and efficient financial system for all Australians.
“I only took this position to serve the Australian community and to work to improve the corporate and financial system that should also serve it. If I in any way impede that purpose, the right thing for me to do is to step aside until such time that I can. ASIC’s work protecting the Australian community must come first. It is far too important to jeopardise.
“I look forward to cooperating with the inquiry and I look forward to my continued service to the Australian community.
“I will ask Deputy Chair Chester to answer questions on this issue and to coordinate answers to other questions Committee members may have.”