Tribunal lifts ban on Charles Abbott

A FORMER deputy chairman of HIH Insurance best known for receiving $181,000 from the insurer on the eve of its collapse has succeeded in overturning a ban preventing him acting as a director or senior executive of an insurance company. Charles Abbott was banned by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority in February 2005 and has not worked since the collapse.

A FORMER deputy chairman of HIH Insurance best known for receiving $181,000 from the insurer on the eve of its collapse has succeeded in overturning a ban preventing him acting as a director or senior executive of an insurance company.

Charles Abbott was banned by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority in February 2005 and has not worked since the collapse.

The retired Melbourne lawyer came to prominence after the collapse of HIH in March 2001 when it was revealed he was able to cash a claim for consultancy fees from HIH just hours before it went under.

An employee of the company cleared the payment by dashing across the Sydney Harbour Bridge by train to a bank with extended trading hours.

HIH became Australia's biggest corporate failure when it collapsed with debts of $5.3 billion.

Mr Abbott, 67, who did consultancy work for HIH on top of his duties as a director, said he would not return to work in the insurance industry but wished to clear his name because he felt it was a shadow over his reputation and ability to earn money for his retirement.

In June 2005 criminal charges that he had obtained a benefit as a director by receiving the $181,000 were ped because a magistrate concluded there was not enough evidence to justify a trial.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which last week overturned the APRA ban, found that while it was improper for Mr Abbott to have "encouraged the pre-payment of" his fees, he had not broken the law or misused his position on the board of HIH. Many other creditors owed money by HIH were never paid.

Mr Abbott's appeal was supported by character references from a range of people, including the former president of the Victorian Court of Appeal, John Winneke, and a director of Rothschild Australia, Peter Griffin.

A former HIH director, Rodney Adler, whom APRA disqualified for 20 years, was released from jail last October. Ray Williams, who was disqualified for 10 years, was freed in January. Brad Cooper, a business associate of Mr Adler, will remain in jail until 2010.


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