In remarks at a business journalism awards lunch last week in Australia, Greg Medcraft, the Chairman of the Australian Securities & Investments Commission, made some startlingly candid remarks about the state of Australia's ability to prosecute and penalize white collar crime. Medcraft noted that ASIC had conducted a review of international white collar criminal penalties and that Australia was far behind other countries, The Australian reports.
Medcraft stated that “in Australia it’s worth breaking the law to do the trade, it’s a big problem.... Civil penalties for white-collar offences are just not strong enough.” He noted, for example, that Australia has not indexed penalties to inflation for 20 years. All in all, Medcraft concluded, Australia was a “paradise for white-collar criminals.”
Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann did not like this conclusion. He disagreed that Australia was a paradise for corporate criminals and noted that it was "ASIC’s job to ensure that it isn’t, by identifying and prosecuting any breaches of our corporate laws.”
One day later, Medcraft had, as the Australian press put it, "hosed down" his prior comments. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that after a phone call with Cormann, Medcraft stated at a Senate estimates hearing the next day that "I correct that. Basically the point is that we want to make sure we don't become a paradise. I want to make it clear that what we're talking about is making sure that we don't end up in that situation."