Former HIH Insurance board member and Sydney barrister Bob Stitt SC had his disqualification from working as a director or senior manager of an insurance company overturned on Monday.
Stitt spent nine years on the HIH board and two years ago was slapped with the ban by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruled HIH's management was not "frank and open" with Stitt and other directors. Eight-and-a-half years after the collapse, Stitt should be judged on the information available to him at the time rather than viewing it retrospectively, the tribunal said.
Stitt's competence and character, as testified by insurance experts and lawyers, was a significant aspect in the tribunal's decision, with "cogent, consistent and uncontradicted" evidence provided, The Age reported. Criticism was leveled by the tribunal at APRA for its failure to call expert witnesses on industry standards.
"That is not to say that such evidence would be determinative but, in this case, it would have been useful in evaluating the level of competence which should be applied in considering the conduct of Mr Stitt," the tribunal said.
While APRA ruled in 2007 that Stitt did not exercise sufficient "care and diligence" as an HIH director, the tribunal found there was no evidence to suggest he knew or ought to have known about the company's misconduct.
Other HIH directors have been slapped with civil and criminal penalties from ASIC prosecutions, including four-and-a-half years' imprisonment for Rodney Adler, with a non-parole period of two-and-a-half years.