Graeme Samuel forced to correct record over DFO involvement

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Graeme Samuel has been forced to correct his annual disclosures to Government over his family’s involvement in beleaguered shopping centre company DFO, it has been revealed.

According to a report in The Australian, Samuel has corrected two “inadvertent” errors on his private business disclosures, which are given to Federal competition minister.

Disclosure documents show that in July 2009 and August 2009, Samuel told then competition minister Craig Emerson that there was no family involvement in the blind trust through which Samuel owned a substantial stake in the DFO business.

However, Samuel’s son Warren served as secretary of the trust from 2006 to October 31.

Samuel told The Australian the error has been corrected.

“The error in my statements concerning Warren’s position as a secretary of the two companies concerned was entirely inadvertent and the record has been corrected with the responsible minister.”

The near collapse of the DFO business, which Samuel had admitted has cost his family millions, continues to dog the head of the ACCC.

Last month, Samuel’s co-investors in the DFO business, prominent Melbourne businessmen David Goldberger and David Wieland, launched an extraordinary attack on Samuel, calling for a public inquiry into his handling of potential conflicts of interest between his DFO investment and his ACCC role.

At the height of the DFO crisis, Samuel stepped down from ACCC deliberations on a possible merger between AXA Asia Pacific and NAB, because NAB was one of DFO’s main lenders.

But Goldberger and Wieland’s lawyers, Leon Zwier of high-profiled Melbourne firm Arnold Block Leibler, went on the attack, calling for a “full, open and transparent inquiry about DFO” and Samuel’s role as ACCC chair.

“If the ACCC does not maintain the highest standards of governance, the ACCC as a regulator cannot make either criticism, or demands, of boards to ensure executive officers remedy corporate culture and comply with the Australian anti-trust law,” Zwier said in early October.

The Government is yet to comment on the latest revelations.

Samuel’s terms as ACCC chair finishes in 2011, although he could be reappointed by the Gillard Government, as he was by the Rudd Government in 2008.

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