An analysis of ASIC and APRA’s gift and hospitality registers, obtained under Freedom of Information, reveals staff have been accepting everything from chocolate and Us dollars to tickets to the country’s big events including the Melbourne Cup
An analysis of ASIC and APRA’s gift and hospitality registers, obtained under Freedom of Information, reveals staff have been accepting everything from chocolate and Us dollars to tickets to the country’s big events including the Melbourne Cup

Secret list of finance cops’ lavish gifts

EXCLUSIVE: A Melbourne Cup "cocktail afternoon", tickets to the Australian Open and $719 worth of Haigh's Chocolates are just some of the gifts and hospitality staff at Australia's corporate and financial watchdogs are accepting.

An analysis of ASIC and APRA's gift and hospitality registers, obtained under Freedom of Information, also shows staff at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission have received gift cards up to $150, a theatre ticket, a Luna Park ride pass, bottles of wine and novelty cufflinks - as well as $US200 in cash - and expensive dinners or lunches with Amazon and Microsoft over the past two financial years.

Australian Prudential Regulation Authority staff received nine boxes of Haigh's Chocolates worth $719 as a Christmas gift from the Bank of China, two Google Home devices worth $160 each for attending a Gartner conference and a dinner at the Sydney Glass Brasserie with American cyber security company LogRhythm, among other gifts and hospitality.

A “cocktail afternoon” at the Melbourne Cup is named in the gift registry. Picture: Getty
A “cocktail afternoon” at the Melbourne Cup is named in the gift registry. Picture: Getty

Crossbench senator Rex Patrick has called on ASIC and APRA to make their hospitality registers public, particularly in the wake of the explosive banking royal commission.

The Centre Alliance senator, a crucial vote if the government wants to pass legislation through the Senate when Labor is blocking it, said most of the gifts were "quite harmless" but it was concerning that ASIC staff accepted invites to sporting events.

"I'm not suggesting that anyone at APRA or ASIC would be influenced by a $20 box of chocolates as a thank you for something, or a dinner," he told News Corp Australia.

"If you are maintaining a register, then you should make it public.

"The benefit of that is that everyone will think carefully about accepting a gift if they know that the public can see it."

APRA told News Corp Australia it would be publishing its gift register in future at regular intervals but a spokesman said a start date had yet to be determined.

An ASIC spokeswoman said the corporate regulator was currently conducting a review of its policy on gifts and benefits, which included "consideration of publication of its gift register".

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the disclosure of internal hospitality registers "was a matter for ASIC and APRA".

Haigh's Chocolates worth $719 were among the sweeteners.
Haigh's Chocolates worth $719 were among the sweeteners.

Mr Frydenberg noted that banking royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne did not recommend any changes to APRA or ASIC's current disclosure requirements but had called for a new oversight body to monitor the regulators, which the Government would be establishing.

"ASIC's engagement with industry will fall within the remit of this oversight authority as recommended by Commissioner Hayne," he said.

Amazon hosted ASIC staff at two dinners at the Sydney Institute, worth $308 and $319, in 2018 and 2019, while Microsoft paid for staff to attend its Ignite conference in February, which included a cocktail reception.

A $55 ground pass to the Australian Open tennis tournament was gifted by an individual not named in the documents obtained under FOI, while a $67 theatre ticket was gifted by wealth management company Ord Minnett, and an $80 "Melbourne Cup cocktail afternoon was hosted by public relations firm Apollo Communications.

A $120 lunch with National Australia Bank subsidiary NULIS - which ASIC is currently suing over allegations it charged thousands of customers millions of dollars in fees for no service - was also disclosed on ASIC's register.

An ASIC spokeswoman clarified that the cost was for sandwiches supplied at a four-hour meeting with NULIS related to a monitoring exercise, not the legal case.

A ground pass to the Australian Open tennis tournament was gifted by an individual. Picture: Getty
A ground pass to the Australian Open tennis tournament was gifted by an individual. Picture: Getty

She also said two Coles Myer gift cards worth $150 each gifted by the Governance Institute of Australia has been donated to office social clubs, while another $75 gift card had been kept by the staff member who received it.

"ASIC's policy recognises that there may be situations where declining a minor gift may cause embarrassment or be impracticable," she said.

"In these cases, the staff member must declare it as soon as practicable and act in accordance with any instructions from their Senior Executive for the disposal of the gift."

She said $US200 in cash gifted by The World Bank Group was to cover taxi fares and meals for staff attending a conference on Fintech Policies and Regulations hosted by the World Bank and the Indonesian Financial Services Authority. The staff member who received passed it on to ASIC.

The documents reveal Australia's big four banks didn't wine and dine the regulators during 2017-18 or 2018-19, a period when the banking royal commission was underway.

But disclosures for 2014 to 2017, released under FOI previously, show Australia's fifth largest bank, Macquarie Group, invited ASIC staff to a "taste of Greece" night at Sydney's Beta Bar in August 2017.

NAB also gifted bottles of wine, while Westpac and CommBank invited ASIC staff to briefings or working lunches.



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