Corporate cop seeks own space

JAMIE Ogilvie readily admits the private sector is unlikely to provide him with quite as much space when his leaves his post tomorrow, along with a suite of well appointed offices and their Bell Tower glimpses.

After four years as regional commissioner for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Mr Ogilvie is considering his options but believes there is a strong likelihood he will return to his stockbroking roots and remain in Perth.

Business News can only speculate that his expertise as a financial watchdog will be in demand as financial services groups grapple with the growing need to deal with compliance issues.

Whatever the case, Mr Ogilvie said any new role, be it in stockbroking or elsewhere, will most likely put him behind a workstation.

The irony is the world of stockbroking has been one of the least demanding sectors for ASIC during Mr Ogilvie’s tenure, with sweeping changes to the corporate regulator’s responsibilities and the finance brokers’ scandal looming as more monumental issues.

There has also been the downsizing of the regional offices and a shift to more strategic thinking, using the experience gained during the infancy of corporate regulation in Australia to improve the effectiveness of the organisation.

“When I joined in 1991 there were 150 people working here, there are now 80,” Mr Ogilvie said.

“We have less resources but I think we have better capability.”

“The competence and quality of our staff and their skills and experience compensates for the reduction in resources.”

He recalls his early days as a regulator, when big numbers of staff would raid targets’ offices and collect mountains of documents.

Often, only after this process, would the regulators then get together and decide what they wanted achieve – notably whether charges would stem from the raid or a weaker remedy such as a banning order would be sought.

“Remedy was an afterthought.”

“In enforcement activity (these days), remedy selection is an important part of the process. The whole investigative process gets driven by it. We have forced ourselves to make some judgements earlier in the process.”

Making earlier judgements is also part of the strategic thinking which ASIC is currently involved in, trying to use its experience to interpret the signals emanating from the corporate sector and head off rogue elements before they do too much damage.

The regulator anticipates considerable wreckage will emerge from the technology sector, particularly among WA’s miners turned dotcoms, and is watching the sector closely.

It is a bit of crystal ball gazing some in WA say ASIC lacked when the finance brokers were pillaging the savings of self-funded retirees.

Mr Ogilvie concedes the finance brokers’ scandal has consumed a considerable amount of his time, having arisen as an issue more than two years ago, but believes the watchdog acted appropriately.

“We think we did a good job with the finance brokers.”

Investment activist Denise Brailey believes ASIC’s Perth office acted quickly when it was notified about the problem and managed well with limited resources.

“Given the circumstances of the Ministry of Fair Trading, I think they (ASIC’s Perth office) did the best they could, they certainly acted immediately on (Graeme) Grubb,” Ms Brailey said.

But she said the WA branch of the agency was hamstrung by budget cuts driven by head office which she claims knew of a major finance broking scandal in South Australia since 1995.

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