Workplace Relations – No News is Not Good News

With the Modern Awards and National Employment Standards commencing on 1 January 2010, probably the biggest news in the governance space has been the almost complete lack of media coverage, or government advertising, with respect to a change of law that will impact millions of Australian businesses and employees.

The impact of the changes is even more significant when you consider that all States and Territories in Australia (with the exception of WA) have now acceded their private sector industrial relations powers to the Commonwealth.

On 3 December 2009 Fair Work Australia (FWA) released the Information Statement that must be provided to all workers after 1 January 2010 http://ow.ly/HZc1.  It also released a “business checklist” http://ow.ly/HicN however this turned out to be little more than a vague list of questions that wouldn’t be much help at all to your average business.

On the enforcement front FWA has maintained its high levels of activity.  Probably the best example was 3 young workers in Brisbane underpaid an amazing $85,000. One of the young employees was underpaid more than $42,000. The FWA media release also provides a long list of other enforcement actions in the Brisbane Area http://ow.ly/LoiI.

If these changes are all a bit of mystery to you refer to the CompliSpace Whitepaper http://bit.ly/8qjMgg for a plain English explanation.

ASIC Woes Continue

ASIC woes continued as a Senate insolvency enquiry widened its brief to examine ASIC’s role in pre business collapses http://ow.ly/GYQq and the Judge in the AWB case slammed ASIC’s litigation strategy calling the case against AWB’s former CEO vexatious and oppressive.

That didn’t stop the government giving the corporate plod even more powers to create and enforce market integrity rules when it takes over market supervision from the ASX next year http://ow.ly/I1Cw.

ASIC did however have a few “rare” victories. It secured guilty verdicts against two former directors of Chameleon Ltd, accused of providing misleading info to the ASX http://ow.ly/LbYw.  It also forced Citigroup to respond to its concerns about heavy handed sales tactics http://ow.ly/HoZv.

ASX Focuses on Gender Diversity, Analyst Briefings and Director’s Share Trading

Following the Goldman Sachs JB Were report which called for gender diversity targets on the boards of publicly listed companies  http://ow.ly/HmaZ the ASX revealed its gender diversity plan for listed companies http://ow.ly/JFHV . Under the plan publicly listed companies will have to publish ”diversity policies” that include self-imposed targets for staff diversity.  Companies that fail to comply with the guidelines will need to explain why not to the ASX Corporate Governance Council.

The ASX also announced proposed changes to the ASX Corporate Governance Principles focusing on analyst briefings http://ow.ly/I1Fn plus new  rules on directors’ share trading http://ow.ly/IFVv. These announcements were both quite timely given ASIC’s to probe into price fluctuations prior to capital raisings and takeovers http://ow.ly/I1Lu.  Maybe just to emphasis the point ASX issued a please explain to Warrnambool Cheese in relation to heavy volumes, with a 10% spike, just before the announcement of a takeover bid. http://ow.ly/KnhS

Class Action Action

There was an interesting little twist in the Storm debacle with news of class action lawyers Slater & Gordon taking aim at Storm’s former compliance advisor, Paragem, who disturbingly signed off “total confidence” in Storm before its collapse.  The simple message is that it doesn’t really matter how far you are down the food chain.  If the lawyers get a sniff of an insurance policy they can claim against, they will.

Pity there are no Class Action awards because if there were Victoria would have been awarded the Class Action Capital of Australia http://ow.ly/IlrC.

Ex Firepower Chief (Tim Johnston) Ducks for Cover

We love our Tim Johnston news simply because his was one of the biggest cons in Australian corporate history.  Tim single handedly caused the demise of the Sydney Kings basket ball team and left Matt Giteau considerably out of pocket when Firepower failed to honor its sponsorship arrangements with the Super 14 Rugby Union franchise, Western Force. Then there was the “gaggle” of celebrities that blew their dollars and Tim’s choice of CEO, John Finnin, who was subsequently jailed on child sex offences.

The latest developments have seen Tim arrested when he was a no show at his court examination in Perth, after ‘heart trouble’, and allegations of intimidation by Warren Anderson. The timing of the intimidation allegations left everyone a bit bemused as Tim borrowed $5.6 ml from Anderson the day after he was apparently intimidated to have Firepower pay Anderson $4 ml http://ow.ly/IG5N.   $4 ml out of Firepower $5.6 ml into Tim’s pocket. There is a movie in this!