AbbottPM vows to restore the anti-union ABCC with extreme policing powers against building unions legitimate union action (search ABCC), but of course does not apply such repression against the building employers.
Who’s Who? Wal King AO
here is the Age expose Going Rogue October 4, 2013
by Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker
Is this ‘rogue’ behaviour really business as usual by most corporations?
Are Wal King and Leightons are the naïve guys corrupted by the undemocratic and unethical ways of the third world. A place where they were left with no choice but to join in the party and cash in!
Allegedly Wal King is a good mate of merchant banker and Coalition MP Turnbull and was to be appointed to the NBN Co board. Is this typical of the company Turnbull keeps? The 1995 report branded King and Leightons as ‘not of good repute, having regard to character, honesty and integrity’. Despite this, he and Leightons continued to flourish. They were not banned from sites, unlike CFMEU organisers defending the lives of their members.
Read on and you will discover that the King of Leightons was practicing his trade all the while on our home turf along with all his other mates.
Notes below by H McQueen
Crooks on Site
Dickens got it half wrong in Bleak House when he has detective Bucket observe that, while murder could be done by amateurs, thieving needed professionals.
Collusive tendering and price-fixing are the ‘ingrained culture’ of the employers in this sector. In 1995, Leighton’s then CEO, Wal King, justified his company’s use of false invoices to conceal price-fixing on the Sydney Casino as ‘the culture … and custom that had been long-standing in the industry that had been handed on for years.’
So had King’s excuse. In 1911, the NSW MBA justified its members’ involvement in illegal commissions by saying that they ‘should be openly recognised’ as ‘universal and worldwide’. The 1995 report branded King and Leightons as ‘not of good repute, having regard to character, honesty and integrity’. Despite this, he and Leightons continued to flourish. They were not banned from sites, unlike CFMEU organisers defending the lives of their members.
The NSW Gyles Royal Commission in 1990 forced the resignation of the executive of the NSW MBA which had been a clearing house for collusive tenders. This unanticipated outcome was similar to that from the Royal Commission into the Ship Painters and Dockers which had exposed bottom-of-the harbor schemes across the big end of town.
Howard did not make that mistake in setting the terms of reference for the Cole inquisition into the building and construction unions. Killard followed suit when she excluded health and safety from the review of the ABCC, which thereby had an easy time in finding that her ‘tough cop on the beat’ was necessary.
The gravest matter in building and construction is the Hardie Asbestos case. The High Court endorsed the disbarring of its directors for seven years for rigging the books about the compensation fund. There is no chance of their being charged with complicity in the mass murder of workers since, under capitalism, killing is not murder when done for profit.
In April, Lend Lease was made to pay fines and restitution of $54USm. for ten years of ‘a systematic pattern of audacious fraud’ in the US of A. Yet again, the company’s defence was ‘everyone does it’. Yet again, Lend Lease is allowed to tender for government contracts.
On 4 April this year, thirty Victorian building inspectors were charged with ‘alleged corruption, serious misconduct and harassment’; they allegedly took kickbacks to block formal investigations.
On the same day, the State government announced its own construction-industry police to attack the Construction Division of the CFMEU. The new body will not pursue the employers who paid the bribes. Since the Grocon dispute, the new body is to chase alleged criminality by the union.
In April this year, Lend Lease paid fines and restitution of $54USm. for ten years of ‘a systematic pattern of audacious fraud’ in the US of A. Yet again, the company’s defence was ‘everyone does it’.
Hastie had inflated its earnings since 2009. Three other collapsed companies – Reed, St Hilliers and Kell & Rigby – had failed to file accounts on times over several years.
In September, Lend Lease stood down executives at its subsidiary Abigroup over misreporting of a possible loss on the Peninsula Link in outer Melbourne.
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission recently fined Leightons $300,000 for not supplying information to the stock exchange.
Leighton’s is also under investigation here and in Iraq into whether one of its subsidiaries paid bribes to win a contract. (Australian, 6 June 2012, p. 43.)
Corporations transfer assets and contracts to other firms inside their stables. Fore example, Reed group transferred an $80m. contract on the Melbourne Law Courts to a company owned by the group’s founder. PPP over
PPP at Ararat $400m from St Helliers and NZ Hawkins Construction
It seems there is no one to stop building companies from calling in voluntary administrators and transferring assets to another clean corporate entity and starting anew. (Age 20 June 2012,p. 8, Business Day)
Collusive tendering and price-fixing are the ‘ingrained culture’ of the employers. In 1911, the NSW MBA justified its members’ involvement in illegal commissions by saying that they ‘should be openly recognised’ as ‘universal and worldwide’.
In 1995, Leighton’s then CEO, Wal King, justified his company’s use of false invoices to conceal price-fixing on the Sydney Casino as ‘the culture … and custom that had been long-standing in the industry that had been handed on for years.’ So had King’s excuse. The 1995 government report branded King as ‘not of good repute, having regard to character, honesty and integrity’.
The 1990 NSW Royal Commission into the construction industry forced the resignation of the executive of the NSW MBA which had been a clearing house for collusive tending.
The gravest matter is the Hardie asbestos case. The High Court disbarred Hardie directors for seven years for rigging the books about its compensation fund.
Transfield’s co-founder, Franco Belgiorno-Nettis, confessed to his corporation’s official historian that he had engaged in corruption and strong-arm tactics: ‘We cover this with a veneer of civilisation’.
John Gay, former head at Gunns in Tasmania, has been charged on two counts of insider trading late in 2011. It is alleged that he sold shares in Gunns knowing that funds for its pulp mill were not going forthcoming.
In the same week as Gay faced court on 14 May, the Securities Commission (ASIC) reported a boom in insider-trading, with as many as 200 alerts received every day, that is, some 50,000 a year. The authorities managed to get eleven convictions in the three years to December, a slight improvement over their ten successes in the decade before 2008. The financialisation of the economy has inserted multiple levels of intermediaries with access to advance information about company accounts. The disproportion of alerts to convictions is a measure of how light is the hand of the law on corporate crooks.
The shopping center giant Centro lost track of more than $3 billion and thereby misled shareholders in 2007. A judge fined its Chief Financial Officer $30,000 and disqualified him for two years. In delivering his findings, his honour warned off ASIC by ruling that the Centro board had not been personally dishonest. Indeed, they had been ‘intelligent, conscientious and well-advised’. Perhaps if they had been stupid, lazy and ignorant they would not have lost anything? We might compare the court’s kid-glove treatment of Centro’s bosses with what its managers would have done to an honest, intelligent, conscientious and well-advised shopkeeper who happened to lose track of even $3,000 in unpaid rents.
Much smaller in one sense yet also far larger in its implication is the plundering of Super fund Trio by its executives. Alongside the Wollongong battlers whose losses were covered by government guarantees were several hundred leafy North Shore investors who went for Trio’s self-managed funds because they promised higher returns. Where did those ‘victims’ think the extra spondoolicks were going to come from if not from shonky deals such as Trio’s transferring $124m. to a tax haven? The problem is not the individual rip-off merchant or a few greedy Pymble millionaires, but the institutionalisation of tax havens with the connivance of governments across the globe.
ASIC recently fined Leightons $300,000 for non-disclosure of information to the stock exchange. That is a hanging offence because they were ripping off other capitalists. A fine for killing for profit can be as little as $35,000. Bourgeois justice values a worker’s life at one-eighth of a share-holder’s monetary loss.
Leighton’s is also under investigation here and in Iraq into whether one of its subsidiaries paid bribes to get information to win a contract with South Oil Co.
Queensland ex-Minister Gordon Nuttall is in jail for taking bribes from mining magnate Ken Talbot. Talbot was due to stand trial on thirty-five charges of corruption but died in a plane crash between Cameroon and the Congo, two of the most corrupt countries on that continent. You can bet your bottom dollar that Talbot had been as generous to the thugs ruling over those mines as he was to Nuttall. Perhaps his plane crashed because it was overloaded with gifts.
In the wake of the Wheat Board’s bribery in Iraq, the Reserve Bank of Australia got around to cleaning up its act. Between 2001 and 2009, two subsidiaries, Note Printing Australia and Securency, paid $50m. to agents to win contracts to supply plasticised bank notes. How much of this payout ended up bribing officials in places like Nepal? How much did the RBA oard know, and when did they know it?
On 4 April this year, thirty Victorian building inspectors were charged with ‘alleged corruption, serious misconduct and harassment’; they allegedly took kickbacks to block formal investigations. On the same day, the State government announced the formation of its own Construction Stasi to ban the flying of the Eureka flag on sites. There will be no special police to investigate who bribed the inspectors.
Killing no murder
Four trucking companies are up on 1,000 charges of disabling the speed governors on their trucks. The practice came to light after a truck killed three people in January. In the aftermath, NSW police found that scores of governors at four firms had been tampered with. The Transport Workers’ Union repeated its accusation against Coles and Woolworths for imposing unsafe delivery schedules. For proof, stop at the Truckies’ memorial at Tarcutta. The employers’ association defence is that executives sit in offices and don’t sully their suits by tinkering with accelerators. Hence, any blame rests with the drivers. At law, corporations don’t have a soul to condemn or a backside to kick, yet they seem well supplied with arseholes.
One QANTAS executive in the US went to gaol for eight months in 2008 for colluding with competitors to fix freight rates. Qantas has also been fined by the European Commission, the New Zealand authorities and paid $26m. in penalties early last year in the US of A. If Qantas bosses were indigenous lads in Western Australia they would be behind bars under the three-strikes-and-you’re-in rule.
Dick Pratt price fixing philanthropist
Dick Pratt made a name for himself as a philanthropist before the Competition Commission fined him $36m. for price-fixing. By colluding on the price of cardboard cartons, Pratt’s Visy and rival Amcor stole money from every pensioner who bought a packet of corn-flakes. Out of that rip-off of the most vulnerable, Pratt made a big fellow of himself. It is typical of the ingrained culture of capitalism that his associates said that the head of the Competition Commission, Gordon Samuel, had behaved badly in pursuing the case because he had been a guest at Pratt’s house. Prime Minister Rudd knew about the scam yet flew to the funeral to pay homage to one of the biggest crooks yet to be exposed in Australia.
Transfield’s co-founder, Franco Belgiorno-Nettis, subsidised the visual arts out of the profits he made from exploiting workers while swindling customers and governments. He confessed to his corporation’s official historian that he had engaged in corruption and strong-arm tactics: ‘We cover this with a veneer of civilization.’ In a class society, each act of civilisation is met by a piece of barbarism exacted from workers whose creativity and suffering pay for the benefactor’s noble gestures.
Activists must voice class bitterness and class contempt. We lose by cringing before bad behaviour in one union. Instead, we must go straight for the corporate jugular to publicise organised robbers and serial killers.
Dickens got it half wrong in Bleak House when he has detective Bucket observe that, while murder could be done by amateurs, thieving needed professionals. Dickens was right to foresee that Pratt did not wake up one morning after a blameless career in business and decide to steal tens of millions of dollars. He was a professional thief. Moreover, killing for profit is no work for amateurs as asbestos makes clear. An International Class-War Crimes Tribunal would charge the Hardie executives with ‘prole-cide’.
More on Wal King in today’s Crikey report
How Leighton Holding’s bosses built their fortunes
by ADAM SCHWAB
INDIA, IRAQ, LEIGHTON HOLDINGS, WAL KING
It’s hard to know what was less surprising: that a company such as Leighton Holdings is allegedly mired deep in corruption, or that the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission don’t appear to be moved to act on myriad apparent transgressions of laws.
The allegations revealed by crack Fairfax investigative duo Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker indicate Leighton was a firm riddled with corruption, where senior executives appeared to do as they pleased, all the while being very handsomely remunerated by unknowing shareholders. Allegations include the theft of $500,000 from Leighton, widespread bribery to win overseas contracts and even the use of notorious Indian “bagman” Packianathan Srikumar. Srikumar allegedly “facilitated” Leighton projects and would receive 10% of the contract value personally, some of which would be “funnelled back to individuals at Leighton”.
If true, the allegations suggest the top-brass at Leighton were using the services of a third party to bribe overseas officials.
Another allegation was that to win $750 million worth of contracting work in Iraq, Leighton paid $87 million to a company nominated by Iraqi authorities, which Fairfax reported. The payment is alleged to have been approved by King himself, a claim King denied.
In his final year at Leighton, David Savage, a Leighton International exec close to King was paid $3.8 million and also received a $2 million bonus from King. In total Savage collected $18 million from Leighton between 2007 and 2011, despite leading Leighton into its Dubai investments — which cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars.
While the alleged actions were occurring, King retired with the fanfare that would accompany a returning victorious general. Few media outlets dared criticise King, who was lionised for his efforts in turning Leighton from an engineering minnow into a powerhouse. The company even published a biography of King’s achievements at Leighton, called The Wal King Years, a collection of fawning praise from acolytes.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Simms may be regretting claiming that “Wal … has an ability to ensure and enforce accountability” while David Gonski will presumably be hoping he could take back noting that King’s “views are sound and have shown him to be a leader much more than just a CEO”. Since 2009, Leighton’s share price has slumped by almost 60%.
Leighton’s poor performance didn’t stop directors from lavishing millions on King, making him one of Australia’s highest paid executives. (It presumably didn’t hurt that King himself was on the Leighton remuneration committee). This largesse was partially the result of King’s bizarre remuneration structure that afforded him a bonus based on a share of Leighton’s profits (rather than comparative total shareholder return or long-term earnings growth). King’s profit-linked remuneration may have encouraged wilful blindness to the actions of rogue employees.
Almost five years later and King’s once stellar reputation is tarnished. Even The Australian Financial Review, which led the King worship while he was CEO, last week revealed that not only was the former executive paid a $6 million consultancy fee after departing Leighton, but he also saw fit to rack-up $40,000 in unauthorised expenses, including a $780 meal at Sydney’s exclusive Rockpool restaurant. It appears the $40 million King reaped from Leighton was insufficient to cover his lifestyle.