How the Naked CEO blew it

The AFR has one dodgy compass some days:

Alex Malley had a choice: money or fame. He chose both, a fateful decision that led to what seems to be his inevitable downfall, if not as chief executive of CPA Australia, then at least of a man respected by his business peers and members.

…Where they noticed, the broader CPA membership didn’t see much harm in Malley’s self glorification. A small group, though, was offended. They saw that Malley, his lieutenants and board backers were well paid, and they seethed at what they felt was a rort.

The dissidents may have been almost-powerless, but they weren’t stupid. They manoeuvred Malley into disclosing that he was paid $1.79 million, a figure so obviously exploitative of the CPA membership that Malley’s board support – which had been locked in for a decade – melted away in two weeks.

Likewise, if Malley had enjoyed his generous pay in relative anonymity, he would just be another well-paid suit, instead of an object of derision across the business community.

What a strangely nihilist take that is. Alex Malley did not blow it owing to fame or fortune. He blew up because he applied an entirely inappropriate value system to the job of governing a not-for-profit membership based organisation.

The CPA is effectively a standards regulator. It governs its accounting graduate standards by applying the teaching and exams that deliver the stamp of approval that makes an accountant what s/he is. It’s only reason for being is to service these graduates and any monetisation strategy needs to be directed at these goals.

Malley applied the ethos of a disruptive CEO to this and turned a member and standards organisation and into a cheap production factory of cookie cut CPAs. He thus prioritised building organisation numbers and his own pay packet ahead of the income prospects of his own members. It’s roughly the equivalent of putting Hulk Hogan in charge of the local kindergarten. Sure he might be able to produce some good wrestlers to boost the WWE in time but is that what you want for your kids?

Arbitraging an organisation’s prospects for personal gain is the kind of behaviour that one can associate with some CEOs. But to do it in a not-for-profit regulator is a whole other level of confusion and violation. The guy’s value system is completely inappropriate for his organisation.


Professions Australia did issue a press release. “The appointment by CPA Australia of a panel to review claims relating to the use of CPA Australia’s members’ funds has been welcomed by the nation’s peak professional body … as an appropriate response.”…Professions Australia “works with its members to promote the interests and welfare of the Australian community through standards consistent with the public interest and ethical and responsible behaviour which fosters community confidence in the integrity of the professions”. Which is interesting because the “about-us/board” landing page on PA’s website throws up a 404 error. That old chestnut. But a skin-deep ASIC search shows that Adam Awty, the company secretary of CPA Australia and one of Malley’s two direct reports, is a member of PA’s board. In calendar 2016, Awty was paid $949,395 (by CPA, not PA). This blazing conflict of interest was not mentioned in PA’s media statement, though we’re assured Awty was not consulted before the statement was issued.

A couple of solid regulators at work there!


  1. Jake GittesMEMBER

    He’d read all the business journals and drank the entrepreneurial kool-aid to believe that it was the way to turn the ‘business around’ and create a whole new paradigm in the sector. Parasite more like.

  2. Engineers Australia is the IT and engineering equivalent of CPA, and persuades the government that there is a shortage in IT and engineering, while profiting from approving immigrants on 457 visas.

    Engineers Australia has just lost its CEO, Stephen Durkin, who took home over $1 million last year. Perhaps he does not want similar attention from the Crown Prosecutor or AFR?

  3. TailorTrashMEMBER

    When does all this get redefined as stealing … use a famous Bill Hayden quote “a drovers dog ” could run some of these organisations and not for a 1or 2 million
    salary ……..after all it’s not as if they are under the pump to deliver a profit or anything ………..

  4. On the weekend I was talking to a mate whose wife works at CPI Australia.
    His wife thinks O’Mallee is a complete pr!ck. A bully.
    He is also very headstrong and won’t stand aside.
    Apparently this review is being undertaken by two mates, which O’Mallee has organised.