Jailed executive hits out at ASIC
A former executive who was sent to jail for insider trading but then released on appeal with his conviction quashed has slammed the corporate regulator for the way it conducted its case against him.
Stuart Fysh, a former executive vice-president at British Gas, now known as BG Group, last year was convicted of insider trading in the NSW Supreme Court for his purchase of Queensland Gas shares in December 2007.
He was sentenced to two terms of imprisonment, two years and 18 months respectively, in December, to be released after 12 months pending good behaviour.
But in July this year, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal ordered that his conviction be quashed and that he be acquitted and released immediately.
By that time, Mr Fysh had already spent 7 months in jail.
Now, in a submission to a Senate inquiry into the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Mr Fysh has asked for the inquiry to consider how the regulator behaves when it pursues individuals it suspects of crimes.
He says ASIC's practice of "rushing to publicise" its suspicions of individuals, and its intentions to charge individuals, before any crimes have been proved to have taken place can destroy the careers of innocent people needlessly.
"There is a material contrast between ASIC's approach and the manner in which other law enforcement agencies publicise their actions and suspicions prior to laying charges against individuals," Mr Fysh wrote.
"I invite the committee to contrast ASIC's [behaviour] with the tone and tenor of the infrequent public comments made by police during criminal investigations ... never in my experience have I seen a police media release that says anything like 'we think Mr Bloggs did this and we are working to obtain proof of his crime'."
ASIC says it wants to promote confidence in the law and market integrity by informing the public about the standards it expects and the consequences of failing to meet those standards.
"Usually, ASIC does not comment publicly on whether we are looking at a matter until we have started court action. This is because the media will inevitably escalate any hint of an investigation, naming names, drawing inferences and beating up the story - and this can affect any future legal action," said Matthew Abbott, a spokesman for ASIC.
"But not commenting on our work leads routinely to attacks that ASIC is doing nothing and, normally, the opposite is true."
When Mr Fysh was released from prison in July, ASIC informed the market by appending a footnote to an original press release to say he had been released on appeal.