Wednesday, October 5, 2016

FIRB boss Brian Wilson shelves controversial private equity role amid perceived conflicts

Foreign Investment Review Board chairman Brian Wilson has shelved controversial plans to take an advisory role with a global private equity company to avoid a perceived conflict of interests.

In a statement released this afternoon, Mr Wilson said he would suspend his proposed role with The Carlyle Group "to ensure there can be no question as to the integrity of Australia's foreign investment review system".

"Having noted concern in some quarters and to ensure appropriate due public confidence in the foreign investment review system, I have decided to take this extra measure." Mr Wilson said.

The appointment as a senior advisor with Carlyle's Asia buyout team was seen by some critics as a potential conflict given Mr Wilson's role in overseeing Australia's foreign investment interests particulary given a tense relationship with China.

Last month when the appointment was announced, a spokeman for TreasurerScott Morrison rejected claims of conflicts saying Mr Wilson would step aside from deliberations that could clash with the interests of FIRB.

At the time, the spokesman defended the appointment saying FIRB needed to attract people with deep experience of foreign investment and that there were "strong proceedures in place to manage conlicts".

Mr Wilson says he will delay the commencement of the Carlyle role until April 2017 when his chairman role at FIRB expires.

Mr Wilson said the Carlyle appointment had been originally approved on the basis that "normal proocols would deal readily with the very rare conflicts."

In line with the Treasurer's statement from last month, Mr Wilson repeated he would stand aside from any matter involving The Carlyle Group until his chairmanship expires.

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