On 1 November 2019, the Federal Court of Australia delivered judgment on penalties and made final orders in ASIC’s civil penalty proceedings against Vocation Limited (In Liquidation) (Vocation) and its officers, Mark Hutchinson (former CEO), John Dawkins AO (former Chairman) and Manvinder Gréwal (former CFO).
The penalties follow an earlier judgment by his Honour Justice Nicholas, finding that the defendants had contravened various provisions of the Corporations Act (Act).
The Court made declarations and ordered:
- Mr Hutchinson be disqualified from managing corporations for six years and pay a pecuniary penalty in the amount of $70,000;
- Mr Dawkins AO be disqualified from managing corporations for two years and pay a pecuniary penalty in the amount of $25,000; and
- Mr Gréwal be disqualified from managing corporations for three years and pay a pecuniary penalty in the amount of $30,000.
Furthermore, on 12 December 2019, the Court made declarations that Vocation (but not Mr Hutchinson, Mr Dawkins and Mr Grewal) contravened:
- section 1041H(1) of the Act by making misleading and deceptive statements to the ASX and UBS AG Australia in an ASX announcement and in a due diligence questionnaire; and
- its continuous disclosure obligations under section 674(2) of the Act by not disclosing to the market the actions taken by the former Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development when it suspended all payments to Vocation.
The penalties follow a judgment made by the Federal Court of Australia on 31 May 2019 in ASIC’s civil penalty proceedings against Vocation and its three officers (19-124MR).
ASIC announced proceedings against Vocation and Mr Hutchinson, Mr Dawkins AO and Mr Gréwal in September 2016, seeking declarations of contravention by Vocation and three of its officers, pecuniary penalties and disqualification orders (16-334MR).
Apology to John Dawkins AO
In late May 2019, ASIC published a media release about Federal Court Proceedings concerning Vocation Ltd and its directors, including former Australian Treasurer, John Dawkins AO.
The headline of that release, if read in isolation from the balance of the statement, may have incorrectly conveyed to a reader that the officers of Vocation Limited (in liquidation), including Mr Dawkins AO, were found to have made misleading statements to the market. No such findings were made by the Court and ASIC did not intend to suggest otherwise. After communications between Mr Dawkins AO’s lawyers and ASIC, a corrected release was subsequently published by ASIC on 5 June 2019.
ASIC apologises to John Dawkins AO and his family for any distress caused to them by the publication of the initial media release.