While much attention is rightfully cast on CEO remuneration, some of the highest-paid people in corporate Australia are not executives, but rather, members of Australia’s Director’s Club. That is, non-executive directors, who ostensibly act to protect the interests of shareholders.

Crikey recently shone light on the remuneration paid to Paul Cooper and Jim Hall — two non-executive directors of Centro, who not only rubber-stamped the company’s destructive acquisition of New Plan Excel Realty, but have overseen the loss of almost $10 billion in shareholder value. Through his myriad  directorships, Jim Hall was paid $684,000 this year. Cooper collected $480,000 from Centro entities alone last year.

But the Centro twins aren’t alone. Scott Rochfort in Fairfax papers this morning noted that Mirvac chairman James McKenzie was paid a handsome $480,000 last year for chairing the struggling property company. The former accountant, who used to manage a couple of Victoria’s government bodies (TAC and WorkCover) and spent six months running disgraced funny man Steve Vizard’s Artist Services business, is also chairman of Pacific Brands, chairman of Gloucester Coal and a director of Crown. Last year, McKenzie was paid more than $1.1 million for his part-time roles — a high remuneration even by executive standards.

Then there’s the doyen of Melbourne’s director’s club, former Scotch and Melbourne University old boy David Crawford. While Crawford can claim to have few skeletons in his corporate closet (his association with Foster’s being his only significant black mark), last year Crawford was paid $1.5 million to for his three part-time roles at of Foster’s, Lend Lease and BHP Billiton.

As Hall and Cooper show, there is little or no accountability cast upon corporate directors. Even David Ryan, the former chairman of ABC Learning Centres’ audit committee was re-appointed as chairman of Transurban and a director of Lend Lease after ABC’s collapse.

Further, many board roles involve minimal time commitments and numerous perks. It’s time institutional shareholders started running a very close eye over the lavish payments being handed to company directors and ensuring that they are getting their money’s worth.

Peter Fray

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