Australia's corporate watchdog chief steps aside over expenses claims

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The chair of Australia’s corporate regulator stood aside on Friday pending a review of his claiming of expenses, saying the government auditor suspected he overshot his maximum salary allocation with payments incurred moving from the United States.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) chair James Shipton stunned a routine parliamentary hearing by saying had just notified the government he was removing himself from the role for the duration of a review into the matter.

“I took this position to serve the Australian community and work to improve the corporate and financial system that also serve it,” Shipton told the hearing.

“If I in any way impede that process, the right thing for me to do is to step aside. ASIC’s work protecting the Australian community must come first. I look forward to cooperating with the review.”

ASIC deputy chair Karen Chester said Shipton incurred A$118,000 ($84,016) in tax advice related to his relocation from the United States. Shipton started in the role in 2018, but Chester said the Australian National Audits Office (ANAO) raised its concerns this September as ASIC was signing off its 2020 annual accounts.

The auditor also said ASIC deputy chairman Daniel Crennan breached his salary cap by claiming about A$70,000 in rental allowance, Chester said, adding that both people had voluntarily repaid the money.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said his department would review the ANAO’s concerns and deliver its findings and “any further course of action that may be appropriate” by the end of the year.

Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Michael Perry