Hancock Prospecting has pleaded guilty to breaches of the Corporations act, resulting in fines worth $130,000 for failing to lodge annual reports with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission on time.
Gina Rinehart’s core company admitted to failing to file annual reports from 2010 to 2012, while two subsidiary companies, Hancock Minerals and Hope Downs Iron Ore were also charged for failing to provide annual reports from 2008 to 2012.
Magistrate Richard Huston described the offenses as “blatant and intended” and rejected submissions from the defense that no conviction should have been recorded against the company as it had applied for an exemption.
Huston said none of the companies under scrutiny had applied for exemptions until after having breached their reporting obligations.
A statement was issued by Hancock Prospecting outside the court yesterday, complaining about the ruling and protesting that company representatives said ASIC led them to believe that delays to filing the reports were acceptable.
“The company was pursued after all the annual returns were filed, so prosecution was not necessary to achieve their filing, and despite the government agency suggesting, during the time a relief application was being made, that it was acceptable to delay such filing as we lawfully sought relief as a private company from having to file,” a spokesperson said.
“This prosecution highlights questions as to why some private companies must file annual accounts with a government agency even when timely paying tax, while others do not.
“What benefit is there for taxpayers of this government administration requirement for some private companies with the extra costs involved for government agencies?
“When the government is attempting to bring about policies to alleviate the decline in small business openings, decline in investment in Australia, decline in exploration, and record debt, do such government administrative requirements assist?”
The 13 breaches between three companies attracted fines of $10,000 for each offense.
ASIC commissioner Greg Tanzer said the agency would continue to take action against companies that failed in their financial reporting duties, which help shareholders, creditors and the public to make informed decisions.