PUSHING THE importance of professional guidelines for the decisions of regulators and even the courts, Justice RP Austin appears finally satisfied with an Insolvency Practitioners Code of Conduct launched by the Insolvency Practitioners Association (IPA) in Sydney.
Speaking at the launch of the code at IPA’s annual conference, Justice Austin said it was likely that regulators and the courts could take responsible professional guidelines into account when evaluating a practitioner’s conduct.
By first offering the “corporate” wisdom required, Justice Austin said the standards would help regulators and courts: “Who would be prepared, in all probability, to take responsible professional guidelines into account when evaluating a practitioner’s conduct in a particular case.”
Justice Austin’s comments came less than two years after making critical remarks about the IPA’s earlier Code of Professional Conduct promulgated in May 2001. In October 2006 at a similar event, Justice Austin: “urged the adoption of clearer, more principles-oriented guidelines that distinguished between what was desirable and what was obligatory”.
Justice Austin labelled the latest offering from IPA as “handsome and detailed.” While he said it was inappropriate for him to assess the content of the code given that he could one day be asked to rule its reasonableness or appropriateness, he said it was “very impressive for its structure, clarity and practicality”.
Paul Cook, the president of IPA, readily admits that their previous code of practice: “wasn’t very robust, it was quite loose in the sense that there were different interpretations of the code.”
Given recent law reform in the area, Cook said, the IPA needed to step ahead of the regulators to get their standards in order. “Unless we took the first initiative, the regulators would [have], and, in broad terms, regulators can get it wrong because they’re not working on the practical.”
With ASIC and ITSA operating as the prime regulators, Cook said the IPA is hoping the code could offer a start to what they would call “co-regulations”.
Cook rates transparency as an important element of what’s essential to the profession, and to the code. “In keeping with modern parliament and recognising the needs, as our profession strengthens and matures, we acknowledge that we’re in a very trusted opinion,” he said.
Given the length of the document — at well over 100 pages — Justice Austin said it may be possible to further simplify the code, yet to a limited degree. Instead, insolvency practitioners will simply have to deal with its length and master its contents. “Indeed, it will be a mark of their professional status that they do so,” said Justice Austin.