Some of the folks at Westpac remind me of Messrs Trump and Giuliani on their shakedown of the erstwhile comedian who is now the President of the Ukraine. (Have you noticed this tendency of comedians to go into politics to lead their country? It says a lot about the other clowns.) They cannot see that they have done anything wrong.
The Chairman, Mr Maxsted, says that ‘we have not seen anything that is case for his [Mr Hartzer, the CEO] dismissal.’ That is presumably some kind of opinion on the options of the company at law. If he is right, he may wish to have a chat with the lawyers who wrote the relevant employment agreement. If presiding over years of a course of conduct that brings the bank into disrepute, if not contempt, does not allow the bank to fire the massively overpaid CEO for failing to discharge his office, then the bank is in more trouble than we thought.
Then Mr Maxsted is reported to have gone from expressing what looks to be a legal opinion to expressing what looks to be a commercial judgment. ‘He qualified that by saying he was yet to meet with some large shareholders and that could change ‘if there isn’t investor support’ for Mr Hartzer.’
Just who is running this bank – the board or a coterie of large shareholders and investors? As a small shareholder, I have some interest in that question. Is corporate governance like our political governance – just a crude numbers’ game bereft of merit?
Mr Hartzer says he accepts responsibility? ‘As CEO I’m ultimately responsible in the chain of command for everything that happens in this company.’ How can he say that while retaining the office that he has failed to fulfil?
Mr Maxsted says: ‘We accept that we have fallen short of both our own regulators’ standards and are determined to get all the facts and assess accountability.’ ‘Accountable’ is even more weasel than ‘responsible’ – they just get overpaid spinners in to do that.
But in any event, it looks like Mr Maxsted is saying that as presently advised he does not have enough facts to ‘assess accountability.’ This is what is called the Volkswagen dilemma – the directors either knew or ought to have known what was happening for years in the company whose business they manage. And we might hope that Mr Maxsted has not forgotten that the courts may have their answers to the questions that now pain him so much. And thank heaven for that.
The well-known line of Horatio comes to mind. ‘Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.’
Mr Henry Herzog of East St Kilda may or may not have a different view of the world to me, but I enjoy his letters to The Age. That of today is a pearler.
I’m taking the Morrison approach: Since my contribution to the Good Friday appeal is less than 1 per cent of the total raised, there’s no point in giving.
Truly, it looks as if Mr Maxsted shares the mystical capacity of Mr Morrison to switch trams in the middle of nowhere – say, just outside the Birdsville pub. The capacity of our P M for inanity is transcendental. Like the time he bore coal in the parliament; or, even better, the times he said we did not need a royal commission into banks because there was an honest cop on the beat. From Keystone.