Daily Bulletin


The Conversation

  • Written by Ellie Chapple, Professor, QUT Business School and research leader Accounting for Social Change research team, Queensland University of Technology
So what's a secretary to do? Banking Royal Commission raises questions about what's in minutes

The Financial Services Royal Commission last week challenged the chair of the Commonwealth Bank Catherine Livingstone about her claim that she confronted management during a 2016 board meeting, saying it wasn’t recorded in the minutes.

“Do you understand that a failure to comply with the requirements in relation to the keeping of minutes under section 251A of the Corporations Act is an offence?” Counsel Assisting asked.

“The explanation is the minutes don’t usually record verbatim what is discussed at the board meeting,” Ms Livingstone replied.

Minutes came into question again on Tuesday.

Read more: Here's a tip that could make banks phenomenally successful: radical honesty

National Australia Bank chairman Ken Henry was invited to consider whether a board meeting had discussed a dispute between the bank and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission over adviser service fees.

Then he was shown the minutes of that meeting and asked to agree that it had not.

“It’s very probably the case. I can’t say for sure obviously, but it’s very probably the case, yes,” he conceded.

So, ought the minutes of company board meetings to be a complete record of what’s discussed?

Ought company secretaries to be “shaking in their boots” as a result of the Royal Commission hearings, as the Financial Review has suggested they are?

What’s a secretary to do?

All the law requires is that the “proceedings and resolutions” of directors’ meetings be recorded within one month of the meeting.

It offers no guidance about how to do that, and offers no template for the format.

Although it is usually assumed that it is the company secretary who takes the minutes, there is no actual statutory requirement for the person who occupies that position to do so.

Read more: The way banks are organised makes it hard to hold directors and executives criminally responsible

And some smaller companies operate without a company secretary.

Where there is one, that person does much more than take minutes.

With QUT research student Robyn Trubshaw, we have conducted a series of interviews with high profile company secretaries and discovered that what they think matters most is “courage” – the courage to call out lapses of process.

They said it was their job to ensure reasons for decisions were documented, and also, according to some, to act as a “filter” for deciding what was recorded.

By determining what went into the minutes in concert with the board they acted as “shared conscience” of the company.

On their toes

Our interviews also revealed a heightened awareness about the importance of getting the right balance between reporting outcomes and recording discussion.

Company secretaries are already acutely aware that every set of minutes of every board meeting might one day end up as evidence.

Read more: Solving deep problems with corporate governance requires more than rearranging deck chairs

So this suggests the royal commission will not be the game changer for company secretaries that some think it will be.

They are already on their toes.

Whether it’s a chess club, a bowls club, a school board, a small or medium sized enterprise or one of Australia’s largest corporations, the role of the secretary matters.

The good ones already know how to get the balance right.

Authors: Ellie Chapple, Professor, QUT Business School and research leader Accounting for Social Change research team, Queensland University of Technology

Read more http://theconversation.com/so-whats-a-secretary-to-do-banking-royal-commission-raises-questions-about-whats-in-minutes-107509

Writers Wanted

What would Amy Coney Barrett, Trump's pick for the Supreme Court, mean for abortion rights in the US?

arrow_forward

Body fat deep below the surface is a toxic risk, especially for your heart

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Prime Minister National Cabinet Statement

The National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, the Victoria outbreak, easing restrictions, helping Australians prepare to go back to work in a COVID-safe environment an...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

5 Ways a Printed Marquee Can Help You Sell More at Markets

If you’re a local business owner, you probably already know that outdoor markets are a great way to reach customers and sell your product. If you already have permanent premises, they allow you ...

News Company - avatar News Company

5 Essential Tools for Working Remotely in 2020

The average, modern office worker spends 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in a company building. Since the start of COVID, however, many of these companies have allowed workers to work from home due...

News Company - avatar News Company

What happens to all those pallets?

Pallets — they're not something everyday people often give much thought to. But they're an integral part of any business which receives or distributes large quantities of goods. But once the goo...

News Company - avatar News Company



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion