THE HERALD'S OPINION: ASIC bans Tinkler for three years and nine months

FOR such a high-profile case, it was a very low-key denouement.

In a statement of fewer than 500 words, titled “three former co-directors banned from managing companies”, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission announced it had concluded its investigations into Nathan Tinkler, banning him from being a company director for three years and nine months, 

It also banned one of his loyal lieutenants, Troy Palmer, for the same period of time. Mr Tinkler’s sister, Donna Dennis, was banned for three years. 

ASIC took its action under Section 206F of the Corporations Act, which provides for a maximum ban of five years where the person investigated was an officer of two more companies wound up within a seven-year period.

The ASIC investigation involved 15 companies that were part of the Tinkler empire. Two of these companies were common to all three of those disqualified. Another 10 companies had two of the three as officers, while another three involved Mr Palmer or Ms Dennis alone.

By the letter of the law, ASIC may feel that three years and nine months is a reasonable disqualification for Mr Tinkler, although the Newcastle Herald does wonder what someone would have to do to receive the full five-year penalty if Mr Tinkler’s demonstrably disastrous record – and the huge losses he caused to innocent parties along the way – was only enough to draw 75 per cent of the maximum impost.

It is well-known that Mr Tinkler blew into the business world like a hurricane, only to destroy his quick success with an ill-considered and profligate spending spree at a time when he had money in the bank, but no real cash flow to replace what was being spent.

It is difficult to put an accurate figure on the many, many millions of dollars lost by Mr Tinkler’s unsecured creditors – leaving aside the $553 million revealed as owing to corporate creditors in his personal bankruptcy case – but many observers would argue that the one-time billionaire has gotten off pretty lightly for the heartache and trouble he has caused.

Certainly, his level of responsibility must surely be much higher than those of Ms Dennis or Mr Palmer, yet they have been slapped with much the same penalties.

Not for the first time, ASIC appears to have whipped a corporate wrongdoer with a feather.

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