Hancock Prospecting has hit out at government regulations that force private companies to file annual accounts, after the company was fined $130,000 for filing late.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission took action after Hancock Prospecting and two related entities, Hancock Minerals and Hope Downs Iron Ore, did not submit multiple financial reports within the required timeframe between 2008 and 2012.
Accounts must be submitted to the corporate regulator within four months of their balance date.
The companies, which first faced court over the charges in April 2014, pled guilty to the charges in the Perth Magistrates Court and were convicted of 13 counts of breaching the Corporations Act.
Collectively, the three companies were fined $130,000.
In a statement, ASIC commissioner Greg Tanzer said the corporate regulator will continue to take action against companies that fail to meet their financial reporting obligations.
“Financial accounts hold important information for shareholders, creditors and the public to help them make informed decisions,” Tanzer said.
But in a statement to SmartCompany, a spokesperson for Hancock Prospecting questioned the need for such government regulations when the company handed over all the taxes it owed.
“All taxes were paid on time by the private company Hancock Prospecting during the period in question, and since 2008, the Hancock Prospecting Group has paid billions of dollars in taxation,” the company said.
“The company was pursued after all the annual returns were filed, so prosecution was not necessary to achieve their filing, and despite the government agency suggesting, during the time a relief application was being made, that it was acceptable to delay such filing as we lawfully sought relief as a private company from having to file.”
Hancock Prospecting, which is led by Australia’s wealthiest person, Gina Rinehart, said the prosecution also highlights a discrepancy between some private companies having to file financial reports while others don’t.
“What benefit is there for taxpayers of this government administration requirement for some private companies with the extra costs involved for government agencies?” a spokesperson for the company said.
Hancock Prospecting also argued its prosecution goes against the federal government’s efforts to support Australian small businesses.
“When the government is attempting to bring about policies to alleviate the decline in small business openings, decline in investment in Australia, decline in exploration, and record debt, do such government administrative requirements assist?” the spokesperson said.
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