Insights

02/10/17

Boardroom Brief: Week commencing 2 October 2017

Welcome to Edition 35 of Boardroom Brief.

This is a service specifically targeted at the needs of busy non-executive directors.  We aim to give you a “heads up” on the things that matter for NEDs in the week ahead – all in two minutes or less.

KEY BOARDROOM BRIEF

ASIC provides guidance for initial coin offerings. In last week’s edition of Boardroom Brief, we discussed legislative and regulatory developments occurring in the fintech space. Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has now released Information Sheet 225 Initial coin offerings (INFO 225) to help issuers of initial coin offerings consider their legal obligations when raising funds by offering coins or tokens. ASIC and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission have also jointly warned people of the potential risks of investing in initial coin offerings. See ASIC’s media release. For further information, please see G+T’s client publication ASIC releases guidance on initial coin offerings.

Whistleblower protections. In keeping with the Government's commitment to provide meaningful protection to people who report corporate fraud or serious misconduct, tax evasion or avoidance, and its commitment to the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Inquiry (PJC) into whistleblower protections in the corporate, not for profit and public sectors, the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, the Hon Kelly O'Dwyer MP, has released the terms of reference for the Expert Advisory Panel on whistleblower protections and confirmed its members. The Panel will review and comment upon draft legislation which the Government expects to introduce this calendar year that (i) establishes whistleblower protections for people who disclose information about tax avoidance and other breaches of tax laws administered by the Commissioner of Taxation; and (ii) strengthens existing corporate whistleblower protections under statutes administered by ASIC and the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority. See Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, the Hon Kelly O'Dwyer MP’s media release.

Number of female directors on ASX stalls. Progress in increasing the number of female directors at Australia's biggest companies has plateaued, with concerns emerging that support for gender diversity in the nation's boardrooms could dwindle as momentum slows. The Australian Institute of Company Directors' quarterly gender diversity report found there were 25.4 per cent female directors across the ASX 200 by the end of August, only a 0.1 per cent increase compared to the 25.3 per cent reported at the end of 2016. So far, 15 companies have signed up to the AICD target of women holding 30 per cent of directorships across the country's top 200 firms by 2018. The AICD’s report showed that while the number of companies with no women on the board fell to 11, down from 13 in May and 22 a year ago, 64 boards have only one female director. See AICD’s media release.

ASIC has launched its data strategy for 2017–20. The strategy, which outlines how ASIC will capture, share and use data, will transition ASIC into a more data-driven and intelligence-led organisation. ASIC’s data strategy outlines a number of data initiatives that have been completed or will be put in place over the next three years including creating a Chief Data Office, establishing a number of frameworks and bodies aimed at strengthening data governance and ensuring cyber resilience and privacy protection. See ASIC’s media release.

THE WEEK AHEAD

Treasury consults on reforms to address illegal phoenix activity.  Treasury has released a consultation paper on combatting illegal phoenixing. In edition 33 of Boardroom Brief, we discussed the Turnbull Government’s announcement on 12 September 2017 of a comprehensive package of reforms to address illegal phoenixing. As part of this package, the Government is consulting on reforms to the tax and corporations law to deter and disrupt the core behaviours of phoenix operators, including non-directors such as facilitators and advisers. Submissions are due by 27 October 2017.  See Treasury’s media release. See also Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP’s media release.

Treasury consults on Tax Expenditures Statement.  The Treasury has released a consultation paper on Tax Expenditures Statement (TES) which is an important resource to help facilitate analysis and scrutiny of the federal tax system. This consultation is part of a review of the presentation and contents of the TES in response to a House of Representatives Committee on Tax and Revenue inquiry into the publication. The purpose of this is to ensure that the contents of the TES publication provide a strong and relevant contribution to the public debate on tax policy. The consultation paper contains several focus questions. Submissions are due by 16 October 2017. See Treasury’s media release.

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