Why Star’s corporate board stars are sued by ASIC

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All the directors who have been the subject of these allegations from ASIC are high-profile business people, with big reputations – most of which have or had multiple directorships. They are the corporate glitterati that populate the chairman’s lounge at Qantas.

All now face the ignominy of being accused of breaching their duties as directors and the threat of potentially million-dollar-plus fines and disqualification from holding directorships.

Star board members (clockwise from top left): John O’Neill (former chairman), Matt Bekier (former managing director and CEO), Katie Lahey (director), Richard Sheppard (former director), Zlatko Todorcevski (former director), Benjamin Heap (current chairman), Sally Pitkin (former director), and Gerard Bradley (former director).Credit:AFR

The laundry list of corporate heavyweights includes Katie Lahey, the former boss of the Business Council of Australia and executive chairman of Korn Ferry, Richard Sheppard, who is the former chairman of Dexus and former managing director and chief executive of Macquarie Bank, Gerard Bradley, who was previously the chair of Queensland Treasury Corporation, plus a former director of LinkGroup and chairman of Super Retail Group, Sally Pitkin and Zlatko Todorcevski who is best known as the former chief executive of Boral. All have since resigned, or announced their intention to resign.

Star chairman John O’Neill, who left the board earlier this year, is a former banker and high-profile sports executive. Ben Heap, who remains as chairman of Star and has taken on the role of rehabilitating the company, is also a founding partner and chair of H2 Ventures and a member of the federal government’s Fintech Advisory Group.

All, ASIC claims, failed in their duty of care.

“Their duty is to understand the operations of the company over which they preside, and the particular risks faced by the business,” according to ASIC chair Joe Longo.


This is a marquee case for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission as it goes to define the scope of directors duties and their ability to rely on executives to keep them informed, and the extent to which they should ask more questions and seek verification.

That said, ASIC says Bekier, former group legal counsel Paula Martin and former chief casino officer Greg Hawkins breached their duties by not adequately addressing the money laundering risks that arose from dealing with Asian gambling junket Suncity and those that funded it. The executives also continued to deal with the junket operator despite becoming aware of reports of criminal links. ASIC claims these money laundering issues were not appropriately escalated to the board.

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