The
line that rang most true in Steve Vizard’s “Statement of Contrition”
yesterday was this one: “It is difficult to overcome the desire for self
justification.” Yep – and it looks like Steve didn’t.

The
patsy deal done with ASIC over the most blatant and premeditated insider
trading scandal to see the inside of an Australian court room included wriggle
room for the defendant to make an excuse for his particularly grubby betrayal of
shareholders’ trust. The funny thing is that most of the newspapers today seem
to take the carefully prepared statement at face value.

“I make
no excuses,” says the statement – and then proceeds to make excuses – excuses
that Vizard’s mouthpiece continued to run with in his submissions to the Federal
Court. No wonder Vizard didn’t take the stand to apologise under oath – he just
might have been damaged if ASIC’s silk had strayed from the sweet deal the
parties had done.

Vizard’s statement is as carefully contrived as the
secretive structure he developed for his insider trading. I commend the
statement to any English teacher wanting an example of manipulative text for
classroom dissection. Here’s
the killer par – it would be funny if it wasn’t for the fact it passed through
the Federal Court unchallenged:

“I make no excuses. I made a
fundamental error of judgment at the outset when I chose to invest in a
portfolio of stocks in the IT sector at the same time as Telstra was major
player in that sector. I created the situation of conflicting interests and
failed in my duty to manage those conflicts. As a result I improperly used
information which was confidential to Telstra.”

Oh poor
Steve. He just failed to manage a conflict of interests. Rubbish. He lied, he
cheated, he scammed. He knew perfectly well what he was doing was wrong,
an he established an elaborate and devious structure to avoid detection. He set out
to take advantage of his position of trust to make himself even richer.

This
was no kid in a lolly shop who suddenly finds a chocolate in front of him and
pockets it on impulse. It was carefully planned and executed – arguably
indicating a more flawed character than the defendant wished the court to see. The
three insider deals involved $850,000 – a fair old whack of the $1 million that
Vizard used to circuitously stake his secret trading vehicle. It is hard to read
the agreed statement of facts without forming the opinion that the intent to
make use of confidential information was a key part in the whole venture.

Peter Fray

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