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On 27 June 2011 the Federal Court found that while 8 current and former directors and officers of the company Centro had acted honestly, this did not discharge them from liability in the misclassification of items in the company’s financial accounts in 2007. Justice Middleton of the Federal Court found each of the 8 directors and officers had breached their duty of care and due diligence and failed to take all reasonable steps to ensure the company complied with the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) with regards to financial reporting obligations. While each of the defendants was acting on advice provided by other parties within the company, ASIC has urged the court to consider the impact on other companies when deciding on penalties in the following weeks. ASIC has sought fines of up to $100,000 and bans from acting as a director of up to 3 years for some of the defendants.
This case emphasises the importance of fulfilling duties of care and due diligence when signing off on financial reports in this annual reporting season or in respect of other matters on behalf of a company.