ASIC wins Centro Federal Court case: Midday roundup

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has won its Federal Court case against property giant Centro, ruling the company’s directors were liable for signing off on faulty accounts in 2007, according to media reports.

The company and its directors, who included Paul Cooper, Brian Healey and former chief executive Andrew Scott, were accused of breaching their corporate duties.

“A director is an essential component of corporate governance. Each director is placed at the apex of the structure of direction and management of the company,” Justice Middleton is reported as saying.

“The higher the office that is held by a person, the greater the responsibility that falls upon him or her. The role of a director is significant as their actions may have a profound effect on the community, and not just shareholders, employees and creditors.”

Philip Morris to launch legal action against Government

Tobacco giant Philip Morris has announced it intends to start legal action against the Federal Government over its attempts to strip cigarette groups of their branding through plain-packaging legislation.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has responded to the threat, telling the ABC this morning the Government doesn’t intend to back down.

“We’re not going to be intimidated by big tobacco’s tactics, whether they’re political tactics, whether they’re public affairs kind of tactics out in the community or whether they’re legal tactics,” she said this morning.

“We’re not taking a backward step. We’ve made the right decision and we’ll see it through.”

Philip Morris announced yesterday that it had served a notice of claim on the Government, stating its intention to serve legal action.

“The forced removal of trademarks and other valuable intellectual property is a clear violation of the terms of the bilateral investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong,” PMA spokesperson Anne Edwards said.

“We believe we have a very strong legal case and will be seeking significant financial compensation for the damage to our business.”

“The government has consistently ignored the concerns expressed by a broad range of domestic and international stakeholders about the adverse consequences of plain packaging and has failed to demonstrate that the policy will stop people from smoking.”

Auction results remain soft

The residential auctions market has remained soft well into winter, although results have picked up in Melbourne.

The Real Estate Industry of Victoria said the city’s clearance rate was 58%, based on 611 auctions. Until this point of the year, the REIV also said there have been just over 13,000 auctions, with an overall clearance rate of 58%.

In Sydney, the city recorded a clearance rate of 60.3%, with 433 reported auctions, while Adelaide recorded a 25.9% rate – there were no reported sales in Brisbane.

Shares lower after weak overseas lead

The Australian share market has opened lower this morning following a weak lead from Wall Street late last week, although investors are expecting a recovery in the healthcare and tech sectors.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 42 points or 0.93% to 4466.1 at 12.10 AEST, while the Australian dollar dropped to a two-month low of $US1.04c.

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