The mood in Federal Court room one for the sentencing of Stephen
William Vizard was more serious than at his hearing a week
ago and although Justice Finkelstein was chewing gum as he handed Vizard
a $390,000 fine and ten-year ban from being a company director, he was
definitely not amused.

Finkelstein described Vizard’s crime as
“dishonest” and a “gross breach of trust” that was only “discovered by
chance.” He said Vizard had put at risk Telstra, its investors and
“possibly the
economy.” Vizard, again accompanied by his brother, looked the picture of
contrition as the judgment was read out.

On the plus side, Judge Finkelstein said
Vizard had admitted guilt, shown contrition and apologised to fellow
board members, the community and his family. Finkelstein said white collar offences
committed by prominent people have a tendency to “erode the
moral basis of the law,” and were easily
concealed. “Left uninstructed,” said Finkelstein, he would have imposed
a higher fine than the $390,000 recommended by ASIC, but that perhaps
that was a matter for parliament to consider.

Finkelstein also found the five-year ban suggested by ASIC too low, enough to
up the ante by five years. Vizard’s display of good character was not
reason enough to be lenient, he said, considering it is good character
that delivers people these
“positions of power” and good character that lets them get away with
crimes. A message
must be sent, he said, that “the game is not worth the gamble.”

Outside the court, Vizard made a short statement, saying that digesting
what had been said would take a little bit of time, and he would
comment further when he’d had time to read the judgment.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey