The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has been under increasing pressure of late to demonstrate it is a tough cop on the beat at a time when there is unprecedented community cynicism about business, especially the financial services sector.
One measure of ASIC’s effectiveness is its success rate at charging and locking people up, a metric Crikey is going to start tracking in detail.
Back in the early days of Crikey, ASIC provided all of the jail data for its first decade of operation, and now it has a comprehensive press release archive, which allows you to track the data.
So let’s start with the basics. Since ASIC was created in 1991 (originally as the Australian Securities Commission), here are how many people the regulator has sent to jail each year:
2017:3 so far
That’s a total of 436 people — or an average of 16.5 people a year — meaning ASIC has been locking up one person every 26 days for more than 26 years.
There have only been three so far in 2017, and we’re overdue at the moment as the last sentence was 39 days ago, as follows:
March 3, 2017 –Mr Cymon Fontaine: sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in the Southport District Court for seven charges of fraud after pleading guilty to defrauding six clients for a total of $105,910. Between 28 June 2011 and 1 July 2013, he was an authorised representative and Corporate Upgrades Consultant for Wyndham Vacation Resorts South Pacific Limited (Wyndham), a financial services company selling time share interests in resorts and hotels.
We’ll have plenty more to say as the ASIC jail list is fully developed in the coming weeks, but here are all of the sentences that exceeded 10 years. Surprisingly, none of these nine are household names, suggesting ASIC does have a history of not taking on the really big fish:
The exclusive eight-person 10-year ASIC jail club 1. September 1992 — Robin Sarah Greenburg: the former managing director of Perth-based Western Women Financial Services received 17 years on two counts of stealing, 45 counts of misusing her position as a director, one count of failing to supply records, one count of destroying records and one count of arson contrary to the WA Bushfires Act. 2. July 2010 — Christopher Koch: Point Cook resident in Victoria who was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court to 13 years and two months. Between 1996 and 1999, he promoted a fictitious, international, high-yield investment program where investors were told they would receive returns of between 50% and 150% in periods as short as 90 days. Koch received $1.74 million from 11 victims and is required to serve a minimum sentence of 10 years before release in 2020. 3. October 2009 — Brett Best: Brisbane man was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment for various charges related to operating an unregistered managed investment scheme whilst a director of Arafura Equities. He pleaded guilty to seven charges of dishonestly gaining a financial advantage for himself and his company, and one charge of operating an unregistered managed investment scheme. 4. June 1993 — David John Gibson: a former Melbourne investment adviser received 12 years on 51 charges of deception, forgery and making a false document involving $7 million. 5. September 2000 — George Balos: the NSW District Court gave him 11 years on 46 fraud charges relating to $2.2 million he raised through an illegal investment scheme. 6. November 2001 — Kerry John Burke: 10 years’ jail, with a non-parole period of seven years after pleading guilty to 50 charges relating to the misuse of more than $5.4 million of client funds. 7. August 2005 — Elizabeth Heather Parry: Cairns accountant who operated Parry & More Accountants and was jailed for 10 years after pleading guilty to fraud charges. 8. February 2017 — Andrew John Sigalla: The former TZ Ltd director was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, with a minimum of six years, having been found guilty of 24 counts of dishonest conduct, following a jury trial in the Supreme Court of NSW. He used his position as a director dishonestly to gain financial advantage by causing $8.6 million in company funds to be transferred to either himself, his related entities or others.
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Stephen Mayne founded Crikey in February 2000, and has remained as a contributor since selling it in 2005. He’s a former political staffer and local government councillor who also pursues shareholder advocacy as a two-time former director of the Australian Shareholders’ Association. He also spent two years working for the Alliance for Gambling Reform.