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(2008) Austin, Janet ElizabethJournal ArticleSection 50 of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 (Cth) confers a wide power on the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) to bring civil action in the name of the company or a class action for shareholders or investors for the recovery of damages for corporate misconduct. Despite its broad scope, this power has been little used by ASIC. Until the recent Westpoint litigation it appeared that this trend seemed set to continue due to the recent growth in ASIC’s arsenal of enforcement powers, in particular the ability to bring proceedings seeking civil penalties, together with what promises to be a new age of private enforcement of shareholders rights through class actions funded by litigation funding corporations. In the context of this likely expansion of private enforcement action and the current legislative framework of ASIC’s enforcement powers, this article will examine when ASIC should bring civil action under this provision.
(2008) Harris, Jason; Hargovan, Anil; Austin, Janet ElizabethJournal ArticleThe conventional view of corporate regulation is that corporations are to be managed for the benefit of their shareholders. The general law and statutory duties of directors and officers reflect this “shareholder primacy norm”, with duties formulated to prevent directors acting otherwise than in the interests of shareholders. However, the general law and statutory duties are not identical. The remedies and enforcement mechanisms differ considerably, which raises the question as to whether the public enforcement of statutory duties carries with it a public interest mandate that general law duties do not. This article considers what role the public interest should have in enforcing statutory duties and whether such a role represents a challenge to the dominant shareholder primacy norm of corporate law. This issue is highly topical as recent decisions have suggested that the statutory duties of directors and officers are limited in their scope to protecting the interests of shareholders, even to the detriment of the public interest. We contest that viewpoint and argue that, at least in relation to statutory duties, directors and officers have obligations that extend beyond the narrow conception of the protection of shareholder wealth.