James Shipton, the former chairman of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), revealed the devastating impact of a defamatory advertising campaign launched by billionaire Clive Palmer. Speaking at a Senate inquiry, Shipton disclosed that he reached a breaking point when confronted with yet another advertisement criticizing his performance. The constant onslaught of these advertisements, along with inappropriate conduct from a senior staffer at ASIC, led Shipton to contemplate ending his own life.
The campaign, consisting of over 40 print advertisements, portrayed Shipton negatively with the slogan “Shifty Shipton.” This came following a review of expenses that Shipton had claimed for relocating and tax advice. The federal government’s auditor found that while Shipton had permission to charge these expenses, his claims exceeded what was permitted.
The relentless nature of the campaign took a toll on Shipton, affecting not only him but also his family and friends. Shipton expressed his disappointment in the lack of support he received from ASIC’s acting chairman Karen Chester and the Treasury during this ordeal. He highlighted the tension within ASIC’s top ranks over the past two years.
Clive Palmer, who faces fraud charges brought by ASIC, defended his actions and argued that Shipton should have resigned immediately after the expenses review. Despite the emotional distress caused by the campaign, Shipton has since moved on and taken up new roles at the University of Melbourne and on various boards.
During his tenure as ASIC chairman, Shipton also tried to report a senior staffer for misconduct but received no response. This failure of the system motivated Shipton to speak out and advocate for a protective employer that meets the necessary health and safety standards.
ASIC expressed concern for the well-being of its staff and stated that the matter has been consulted with relevant third parties. A report from the Treasury in January 2021 cleared Shipton of any wrongdoing in relation to the expenses review.