Adam Schwab writes:

Nefarious chartered accountants may rejoice – it is virtually impossible that disciplinary action will ever be taken against them. That is the conclusion that can be drawn from last week’s staggering decision by the ICAA to exonerate Steve Vizard’s co-conspirator, former chairman of Bentleys MRU, Greg Lay.

For those who have forgotten, Mr Lay was the helpful accountant and sole director of the now infamous Creative Technology Investments, who on the oral advice of Telstra director, Steve Vizard, conveniently acquired shares in several companies which Telstra was about to acquire.

In a media release exonerating Lay, the ICAA claimed “that a connection between the media criticism of the Institute and the profession and Mr Lay’s actions, or lack of actions, has not been clearly established.” That is strange, because much of the media criticism of Lay’s actions (and by implication, criticism of the ICAA) was triggered by a Statement of Agreed facts which Vizard submitted to the Federal Court.

In that Statement, Vizard admitted that he instructed his advisor, Greg Lay, to deal in shares in relevant companies (and also implied that Lay would keep 10% of the proceeds of any of the share dealing). One would be forgiven for thinking that a written statement to the federal court implicating Lay in the insider trading activities would be enough for the ICAA to draw “a connection” between Lay’s actions and the subsequent media criticisms.

As further evidence that the ICAA have absolutely no idea what is going on, ICAA chief executive, Mr Stephen Harrison, told The Age last week that “I do not think I have read anywhere that (Lay’s refusal to testify against Vizard) was the reason why a prosecution would not succeed.” Before making such comments Mr Harrison should have taken the time to read the press release of Commonwealth DPP, Damian Bugg QC, on 28 July this year.

In it, Bugg specifically stated that “evidence from [Mr Lay] was crucial for a criminal prosecution, as it would connect Mr Vizard to CTI and the trades and the timing of the trades.” In effect, the DPP conceded that the only thing preventing a successful criminal prosecution of Vizard was Lay’s refused to testify.

Earlier this year, the ICAA came under considerable pressure after it launched an advertising campaign which criticised rival accounting body, CPA. Maybe the lesser regarded CPA should counter with an advertising campaign of its own, perhaps it can include a picture of Greg Lay with text noting that “We don’t exonerate our members who assist in the commission of corporate crime.”