Deary, deary me. They’ve all lived such lives of entitlement that really don’t know anything about public service at all. It’s all about drawing a preposterously large salary, which undermines the culture of public service in the first place, and then protecting it ahead of the public interest. To wit, the AFR’s conservative attack dog, John Kehoe, rides in to the save dead man walking, APRA head Wayne Byers, this afternoon:
…Outside pressure built on Mr Byres on Monday when financial services royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne broke his silence to publicly back all the recommendations in the APRA capability review and said it was consistent with the findings in his final report.
The Australian Financial Review has been told by government sources that the Morrison government backs Mr Byres to lead reforms at APRA and there has been no consideration to review his leadership tenure.
…The Treasurer believes he secured a guarantee from the Mr Byres to accept all recommendations of the Samuel review and assured that APRA will be given more money to do so.
Why does the Treasurer have to babysit the head of APRA to get anything done? That is self-evidently untenable. Recessionberg is only digging his own hole deeper.
Byers is thoroughly discredited. Via the SMH:
A rare public intervention from banking royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne could be aimed at ensuring his recommendations are not watered down by financial sector lobbying, former watchdog Allan Fels says.
…In a move that adds to pressure on APRA, on Monday commissioner Hayne made his first public comments since his report was handed down to government six months ago, backing the [APRA] capability review.
…“Any post-report pronouncement by Hayne will carry considerable weight,” said Professor Fels, a former chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
“It’s very unusual for a royal commissioner, especially a former High Court judge, to speak after a report, but probably he is concerned about weak implementation of his report due to enormous pressure from the financial institutions, an enormously powerful lobby.”
Or, put another way, Hayne is concerned that a weak regulator led by a proven failure who is resistant to reform even after the endless parade of horrors in the RC will succumb to the lobbying.
Staff have no faith in Byers, previously at the AFR:
Working conditions in a division of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority that was advising the banks on culture became so toxic that most of the team have quit in frustration over the last 18 months.
Many of those who threw in the towel have gone on to open thriving consultancies, including ASIC’s boardroom shrink of choice Elizabeth Arzadon, who resigned from APRA in May 2018 only to be scooped up by the corporate cop months later.
Former members of APRA’s governance, culture and remuneration team who spoke to The Australian Financial Review said they were regularly undermined by senior executives who did not believe in their mission.
The Parliament is calling for his head, with Centre Alliance patriots leading the charge:
Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick has called for the resignations of APRA chair Wayne Byres and his deputies after a review into the organisation found its leadership wanting.
The review of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), done for the government and led by former ACCC chief Graeme Samuel, found that “leadership, people and culture” were issues and that it “should address variation in leadership capability for all management levels”.
“If you look at the findings of the banking royal commission and this review you see that APRA has been asleep at the wheel. Leadership and culture have been identified as a problem and they are set at the very top,” Senator Patrick said.
“You can’t earn $886,000 [as Mr Byres does] and not be fully responsible for leadership, transparency and contestability,” Senator Patrick told The New Daily.
“It’s not proper for him to stay in that role. Ultimately, the buck must stop with someone.”
Even the business press has had enough, previously via Chanticleer:
This tight control of the dissemination of information and the strategic decision to avoid the nightly news sits oddly with the firm advice in the capability review for APRA to engage more deeply with the community.
But it was Byres’ response to the media questions which left Chanticleer in doubt about his willingness to fix all the weaknesses in the management and strategic priorities at APRA identified by the capability review.
The review panel chaired by Graeme Samuel and including Diane Smith-Gander and Grant Spencer must surely be disappointed with Byres’ response. But they have chosen to let the report stand for itself and will not be commenting publicly .
At The Australian Byers is now an object of exasperated ridicule:
In most lines of work, if you do a poor job you don’t get a pay rise. You might even be laid off. Not in financial regulation La La Land, where poor performance comes with a five-year contract and a $17,000-a-year pay increase.
You might have thought a royal commission, a series of damning inquiries into the quality of the financial sector (it’s difficult to keep track) and now a highly critical capability review would have been enough for a round of applications late last year for the position of chairman of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.
Instead, Wayne Byres, in the job since 2014, was appointed in November for a further five years and, thanks to the Remuneration Tribunal, scored a pay bump to $886,770 a few weeks ago.
Not bad in the lead-up to a 146-page capability review that found APRA slow, opaque, inefficient, and in urgent need of a culture and leadership overhaul.
However technically competent and experienced Byres might be, it was a mistake to reappoint him last year. He would have found other important work.
And a fresh chairman from outside the financial regulation establishment could have set the regulator, one of the nation’s most important, on a new path. Byres is hardly going to be a critical reforming force of an organisation he’s been at since 1998.
This afternoon the credibility gap is on display again, as APRA deploys new pay caps, at Nine:
The prudential regulator is proposing to weaken the link between a bank’s financial performance and how much it pays its executives after the royal commission found that existing bonus structures contributed to poor treatment of customers.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority on Tuesday released a draft standard aimed at “clarifying and strengthening” remuneration requirements in APRA-regulated entities to reduce the likelihood of misconduct.
Prioritising financial performance over considerations such as conduct, culture and customer wellbeing was regularly cited at last year’s royal commission hearings as a factor in customers losing out financially in dealings with their lenders.
“In the financial sector, APRA has observed an over-emphasis on short-term financial performance and a lack of accountability when failures occur, especially among senior management,” APRA deputy chair John Lonsdale said.
What about failed regulators pulling massive salaries?
Wayne Byers must resign. He is an embarrassment to APRA. He is an embarrassment to the Treasurer. He is a risk to reform. He is a risk to Australia via the return of the mass mortgage fraud that he happily waved through in the last cycle.