When our new Environment Minister, Melissa Price, gave her first speech in parliament in December 2013, she mentioned that she was one of three members of the Clayton Utz Perth alumni in Canberra, the other two being Julie Bishop and our new Attorney-General Christian Porter.
Matthias Cormann’s wife Hayley is also a Senior Associate at Clayton Utz in Perth and Julie Bishop’s brother Douglas is a Partner based in Sydney.
In April this year, the New Daily reported that Clayton Utz had won 95 government contract tenders worth a total of $10.96 million to provide legal services to various departments and agencies since January.
A report in The Australian Financial Review listed Clayton Utz among dozens of law firms recruited by the government in a trial to outsource the drafting of legislation.
Even ASIC employs them. In 2015, the corporate regulator paid $55,000 to Clayton Utz for “personnel recruitment” services.
AMP hired Clayton Utz to provide an “independent” report into breaches by its financial planning division to ASIC. They did 25 drafts until AMP were happy with the result, prompting Commissioner Hayne to comment at the banking RC that there were “questions” about “the extent to which senior management or others associated with AMP, sought to influence or did influence, the content of the report by Clatyon Utz apparently submitted to ASIC as an independent report.”
The senior AMP legal executive accused of interfering with the supposedly independent report , Brian Salter, also held a position on the Financial Services and Credit Panel which was set up by ASIC late last year. Members of the panel sit on ASIC’s administrative hearings, where banning orders for misconduct by rogue financial planners might be considered.
ASIC’s external advisory panel, a high-powered group used by the regulator to provide deeper understanding of “developments and systemic risks within the financial services industry”, also has close links with AMP with three members associated with the troubled company including two former chief executives.
In May, with heads rolling at AMP, they appointed former Commonwealth Bank chief executive David Murray as their new chairman. Murray chaired the Financial System Inquiry, which reported to the Australian Government in December 2014.
Murray was the CEO of the Commonwealth Bank between 1992 and 2005. In his 13 years as Chief Executive, the Commonwealth Bank transformed from a partly privatised bank with a market capitalisation of $6 billion in 1992 to a $49 billion integrated financial services company, generating in the process total shareholder returns at a compound annual growth rate of over 24 per cent, one of the highest total returns of any major bank in Australia.
He was also the inaugural Chairman of the Australian Government Future Fund Board of Guardians, serving between 2006 and 2012, a position now held by former Treasurer Peter Costello.
No doubt all these people are highly credentialed and well-qualified for the roles they fill, but the incestuous relationship between government, the financial sector, the regulators, and the legal firms they use, must raise some questions.