25 Jan 2019

Revealed: Reserve Bank, ComCom staff entertained by firms they regulate

10:07 am on 25 January 2019

Top officials at financial regulators have been wined, dined, and entertained by the banks, insurance, law, and accounting firms they supervise.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Gift registries disclosed to RNZ Business show that staff at the Reserve Bank (RBNZ), Commerce Commission and Financial Markets Authority (FMA) were receiving wine, food, tickets to sporting and entertainment events.

At the Reserve Bank, which regulates banks and insurance companies, a deputy governor went to a golf tournament last year paid for by the insurance company Aon.

Other staff, including the former head of financial markets and the head of supervision, attended the World of Wearable Arts fashion show and an All Blacks rugby game, courtesy of the BNZ and ASB banks.

The game was attended while the RBNZ and the FMA were reviewing banks' conduct and culture.

At the Commerce Commission, which is in charge of consumer, competition, and fair trading laws, staff accepted $60 bottles of champagne from law and economics firms.

They also attended lunches paid for by major auditing and business advisory firm KPMG, their 2018 registry showed.

The FMA accepted paid invitations to seminars and conferences, with price tags up to $1700, as well as bottles of wine and Veuve Clicquot champagne.

All three agencies have rules about the reporting of gifts over certain values, which range from $30 to $100, and there are broader guidelines about dealing with potential conflicts of interest.

Australian financial regulators have been criticised for cosying up to the financial sector by accepting similar gifts and hospitality.

Government agencies and departments have detailed guidelines on accepting gifts, with the State Services Commission advice reflecting broad public sector policy.

The Audit Office, which oversees government finances, has said staff in state agencies need to make good judgement around accepting goods and services from commercial entities.

Michael Wood, the chair of the Finance and Expenditure committee, said it scrutinised the gifts received by public entities in its annual reviews.