Heather du Plessis-Allan: Hisco saga unlikely to damage John Key

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 18 June 2019, 5:02PM
Sir John once again has proven he is the smiling assassin, writes Heather. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Calls for the head of Sir John Key are overwrought.  So are calls for a Royal Commission of Inquiry.

Most of what’s happened at ANZ has happened over a period when John Key wasn’t the chair of the company.

He joined the board in October 2017. David Hisco had been charging his personal expenses to the company as business expenses since 2010.

The other matter ANZ is in trouble over - that it hasn’t been holding enough capital - started in 2014, and again predated Key.  

I don’t think there would be calls for the chair to resign over this if the chair was anyone other than John Key.
This is becoming personal.

As for a Royal Commission of Inquiry, is that necessary? Just because Australia had one doesn’t mean that we must follow suit.

Our business environment is somewhat different to Australia’s, and the charging of personal expenses hardly indicates we’ve got the same problems here. Over there, the problem was more about what was being charged to customers, both alive and dead, not what was being charged to the bank by the chief executive. 

Having said all of that, what happened yesterday can only be described as bizarre.

A guy losing his job over what we now know is $25,000-odd of expenses charged to the wrong account feels disproportionate. Especially when the guy is considered extremely capable, carries a huge amount of mana in the industry and is very well-liked. 

His transgressions were clearly over-egged by John Key. Key led us to believe the spending was close to $50K, but we’re now hearing it was really more like $25K. Key also told us they were chauffeur-driven cars, which we now know they were Corporate Cabs. Aka taxis.

It gave us an insight into why Key has always been called the"smiling assassin".

But for all the criticism of Key and the way he over-egged the matter yesterday, you can tell his value to the company.

ANZs shares actually went up yesterday. At least some of that has got to be because of the ‘John Key effect’, his ability to convey the sense there’s nothing to see here, nothing to worry about.

John Key’s too valuable for ANZ to lose. They won’t let him go as easily as they did with Hisco, even if the over-wrought carry on pointlessly calling for his resignation.

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