The concept of corporate governance in Australia took on a totally new meaning in 2006, thanks to the efforts of AWB. Consider the ways this happened. Let’s start with bribery – AWB did it on a scale never before witnessed in this or most other countries, paying some $300 million in kickbacks. Let’s continue with the character of the bribes – the regime of Saddam Hussein, not only a five-star dictator but also the head of a country against which Australia had declared war. Now move on to corporate responsibility and culture – some of AWB’s most senior executives and board directors were exposed under oath at the Cole Inquiry as a bunch of incompetents or liars or both, using phrases like “I don’t recall” and “I can’t remember” with a regularity that has probably never been seen before in any Australian corporate investigation. The result is a share price of $2.61, compared with $6 at the start of the year, a potential class action from American farmers, calls for a ban on AWB trading on the US commodity futures and option markets, and possible criminal action against executives and directors. For lessons in how to squander a monopoly, ruin a reputation and shred the rulebook on corporate governance and morality, AWB wins Crikey’s corporate governance award hands down. 

2005 winner: Rupert Murdoch’s poison pill extension without reference to his News Corporation shareholders.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.


Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey