Whilst ASIC should be blasted for its failure to stop Firepower from raising $100 million from gullible investors with little more than newsletter concoctions and kickbacks to a particularly dodgy financial planner, the corporate plod’s leadership of the day has well and truly moved on.

Underwhelming Adelaide accountant Jeff Lucy headed ASIC from 2004 until 2007 and his replacement Tony D’Aloisio is now shaking up ASIC. Last night’s belated court action to ban Firepower founder Tim Johnston from being a director was still rather pathetic as that particular galloping horses is nowhere to be seen.

Graeme Samuel also has a lot to answer for because the ACCC routinely prosecutes companies for making false and misleading claims about its products.

For instance, yesterday Samuel warned consumers about phone plans and on Friday the ACCC launched court action against ATS All Trade Services for the following:

It is alleged that ATS All Trades and Services made misleading representations regarding the quality and nature of the list of job opportunities provided to members, the availability of discounts to members and the provision of a webpage that would be displayed after conducting a Google search.

So why did it take Gerard Ryle’s great work for The SMH to bring the Firepower empire down?

Ryle was certainly unlucky not to win the business Walkley last year when the three judges — The Australian’s Adele Ferguson, Channel Nine’s Ross Greenwood and The AFR’s Mark Skulley — felt Anthony Klan’s Fincorp collapse coverage for The Australian was more worthy.

It does say something about Western Australia when the two best business stories of the year are about exposing leading Perth-based crooks.

Michael Pascoe was absolutely right yesterday in suggesting there is something fundamentally rotten about Perth, with The West Australian newspaper heavily in the frame.

Our other major corporate problem is Australia’s tendency to forgive and forget. Larry Adler, Alan Bond, Jodee Rich, Brian Burke, Warren Anderson, Brian Burke and now Tim Johnston are all examples of people who the system allowed to bounce back from early troubles that would have seen their career’s ended in more sophisticated countries.

I can remember having a conversation with a young Rodney Adler in 1989-90 when he blasted the collapsed stockbroker Jacksons for dealing in “rubbish stocks”. The Perth office of Jacksons was run by a certain Andrew Forrest who later went on to blow up almost $500 million in nickel play Anaconda. Even after two disasters, Twiggy somehow surfaced again to become Australia’s richest man, partly thanks to the brilliant lobbying of Brian Burke in getting speedy government approvals for Fortescue’s Pilbara iron ore dreams.

It’s a story that could only happen in Perth, just like the extraordinary tale told by Four Corners last night.

*The link works today for this video stringing up Oxiana chairman Barry Cusack over Owen Hegarty golden goodbye.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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