Securities regulator to consider Obeid corruption findings
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Australian Securities Exchange say they will assess reports released on Wednesday by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption following its findings that several businessmen and former politicians acted corruptly.
"ASIC will assess the referral and evidence once it is received from the ICAC," a spokesman said.
ICAC found some of Australia's richest and most experienced businessmen had engaged in corrupt conduct in their dealings with the Obeid family over the planned development of a coalmine in western NSW.
The proposed mine, Mount Penny, covers the majority of Cherrydale, a property owned by the Obeid family, along with two adjacent properties that ICAC said were either owned or part-owned by the Obeids along with some associates.
The businessmen and their associates stood to make tens of millions of dollars each if the deal had proceeded.
Cascade Coal, a company associated with long-standing coalmine investor Travers Duncan, won the right to develop the mine, which it then sought to sell to a publicly listed company, White Energy, which Mr Duncan chairs.
Mr Duncan, along with some associates, sought to avoid disclosing the Obeid family involvement in the transaction. ICAC has referred the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions with a view to taking legal action against Mr Duncan, John Kinghorn, John McGuigan, John Atkinson and Richard Poole, all of whom either are, or have been, directors of public companies.
Cascade has estimated it would cost $400 million to develop the mine, north-east of Mudgee.
"ASX will closely review ICAC's report, having raised concerns about disclosure by the relevant entities in 2011," a securities exchange spokesman said.
"The findings point to individual instances of alleged breaches, rather than anything systemic."
With an estimated worth of $680 million, Mr Duncan is one of Australia's richest businessmen, according to BRW magazine. He made $500 million alone from the sale of coal assets to Chinese group Yanzhou in 2009.
Mr Kinghorn reaped $650 million from selling shares in his RAMS Home Loans. Mr Kinghorn has established a foundation with $300 million of his money, while Mr McGuigan previously helped raise money for the Victor Chang Foundation, for which he is a life governor.
Along with being a former executive chairman of international law firm Baker & McKenzie, Mr McGuigan is a former chairman of White Energy. He and Mr Atkinson resigned from the company in 2011.
"I completely reject the findings of ... [the ICAC] against me," Mr McGuigan said in a statement, saying he had "acted properly at all times" and had "complied with all obligations". He said he would take whatever measures necessary to restore his reputation.
Cascade chairman Mr Atkinson also denied the allegations made against him in the ICAC report.
"I have reservations and concerns about the general process and propose to now consider the report in detail and consult my lawyers on the most appropriate action," he said.
Mr Poole said he was "very disappointed" with the ICAC findings.
"It is my belief the evidence does not support the findings," he said, adding he would "strenuously defend" himself.
"They are untouchables," one corporate governance official said of the impact on their reputation from the ICAC report. "It would be impossible to recover from this."