The embattled and befuddled AWB board has
set its sentencing date for CEO Andrew Lindberg and the other executives up to
their ears in the Iraqi kickbacks scandal: 31 March, when the Cole inquiry is
due to report.
But don’t expect the sentences to be too
harsh. I somehow suspect that whatever else goes down in the inquiry hearings,
all will be at pains to suggest the board itself knew nothing, heard nothing
and said nothing about Iraqi funny business – and thus the executives involved
will not leave penniless.
After six days of the inquiry and six days
of a plunging share price, never mind all the speculation since the Volcker
report hit last year, the AWB board finally broke cover yesterday with a belated and mimsy little announcement to
the stock exchange, replete with “we seek the support and understanding of our
farmers, shareholders and customers as we manage through this difficult
they have received some with the share price up 14 cents this morning to $5.14.
But what shareholders, farmers and customers should be seeking is a board that
has a handle on AWB’s culture for a start. A board capable of finding out what’s
going on in its company without the assistance of Cole QC wouldn’t be a bad thing
With the share price falling below $5
yesterday, the board said it would be inappropriate to respond to “allegations
or the evidence” before the inquiry is completed but promised it would ensure that it complies with ASX listing
rules and takes “all the necessary
actions as may be appropriate to protect AWB, its reputation and business.”
But it looks like the board still doesn’t
get it. The 15 AWB directors say:
Regretfully, AWB’s reputation has been
significantly damaged as a result of the Company’s participation in the United
Nations Oil for Food Program and subsequent media coverage.
No, boys. (And, yes, of course they’re all
boys at the top of this very blokey organisation.) It’s not participating in
the UN program or the accursed media that’s been the problem. AWB’s reputation
has been damaged by an outdated culture that’s happy to pay kickbacks and
bribes and indulge in dodgy dealings on a “whatever it takes” basis – and it is
the 15 of you who are entirely responsible for that culture.