October 17, 2017 / 5:57 AM / a year ago

Australia hires ex-Goldman banker to head corporate watchdog

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A former Goldman Sachs banker, who also headed the licensing division of Hong Kong’s securities regulator, was appointed the new head of Australia’s corporate watchdog on Tuesday.

James Shipton, currently a financial systems academic at Harvard Law School, will take on the top job at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in February, the government said in a statement.

Under outgoing chairman Greg Medcraft, ASIC took aim at Australia’s banking system after a series of scandals shook public confidence in the sector and a replacement has been long awaited.

The regulator launched a lawsuit against three of Australia’s four biggest banks alleging interest-rate rigging, and opened an investigation in to money-laundering allegations at the largest lender, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA.AX).

Medcraft, who retires on Nov. 12 after an eight-year tenure, said last month that improving the culture and conduct of Australia’s biggest banks was one of his “unfinished businesses” as he prepares to step down.

Shipton said restoring trust and confidence in financial markets and improving bank culture would be key aims of his leadership at ASIC.

“I’ve been observing from afar and I’ve made the observation this is a global challenge and that all financial institutions need to continue their hard work on improving their organizational dynamics and their own organization culture,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Shipton spent nine years at investment bank Goldman Sachs, including in its Asia brokerage business and as head of government and regulatory affairs in Asia. From 2013 to 2016 he was executive director of the licensing division of the Hong Kong Securities regulator.

Justin O’Brien, a professor of financial regulatory law at Monash University in Melbourne, said Shipton’s appointment reinforced Medcraft’s legacy.

“The appointment sends a very clear signal that the international focus on culture and conduct will continue,” O’Brien said.

Shipton’s appointment comes days after a rival candidate, Credit Suisse Australia chairman John O’Sullivan, withdrew from the race following criticism about his ties with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the ruling conservative Liberal Party.

Reporting by Sonia Feng and Nathan Lynch; Editing by Jane Wardell and Sam Holmes

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