Richard Gluyas in the Oz today
does an exquisite knife job on ASIC chief Jeff Lucy while reporting there was no sharp implement
at the scene. It looks worse than a football club’s chairman saying a losing
coach has his full support.

The Gluyas piece is based on Lucy rejecting
speculation that he won’t see out his contract, but beyond that denial,
everything else says otherwise:

Weeping wounds from the mishandling of Steve Vizard’s
prosecution, the return of Lucy’s wife to Adelaide and a steadily expanding
profile for deputy chairman Jeremy Cooper have all led to the apparently
inescapable conclusion that he will step down before the expiry of his
three-year contract in May next year.

From there, it is all pretty much downhill
– and that’s without mentioning ASIC going soft on crooked financial advisers.
Aside from a little detour to imply Lucy spends too much time travelling
overseas, the harshest paragraphs are reserved for an episode concerning Frank
Lowy’s restructuring of Westfield. (The one where Frank hired nearly every investment bank in Australia,
ensuring there would be no negative research):

Some have also questioned Lucy’s appreciation of the need for ASIC to be
seen to be scrupulously independent.

Last year, Westfield boss Frank
Lowy, with Lucy’s encouragement, spoke to a small team of six to eight ASIC
staff who had worked on Corporations Act exemptions facilitating a massive
restructure of the property group.

There were two meetings – one before the transaction to explain its
intricacies and another following its completion to acknowledge the ASIC team’s
work. Says Lucy: “I was very pleased (Lowy) chose to do so; it’s nice to
have external confirmation of your work.

“Yes, it could cause a problem if it’s badly handled, but we are
impeccable in the way we deal with those communications.”

Purists see such meetings as a departure from sound practice dictating that
ASIC should remain at arm’s length from active corporate players.

And the impure might see worse. Just as
well the communications have been handled impeccably. Otherwise it might look
like the coach has the support of the whole board, not just the chairman.

Peter Fray

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