Harold Mitchell
Former Tennis Australia director Harold Mitchell (Image: AAP/Julian Smith)

Critics of the corporate regulator ASIC have long held the view that it needs to take on more big fish. For instance, how on earth did listed companies branded Babcock & Brown blow up more than $10 billion for investors and lenders after the global financial crisis without a single ASIC charge being laid, either civil or criminal?

However, tackling the big boys doesn’t mean you should pick the wrong case -- which is exactly what ASIC did when it wasted tens of millions of dollars in a six year battle from 2006 and 2012, taking on Fortescue Metals and Andrew Forrest over their allegedly super-bullish Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) announcements about Chinese contracts in 2004-5.

The subsequent campaign Fortescue ran against ASIC set the regulator back years in terms of government credibility and funding. And it was indeed once bitten twice shy in terms of cases brought after the GFC.