SYDNEY — TV bizzer and former Oz talkshow host Steve Vizard has been fined A$390,000 ($295,000) and banned from being a director of a company for 10 years for illegal share trading.
Vizard was charged earlier this year with using his position on the board of telco Telstra to trade in tech shares $640,000 worth using sensitive information. He made a brief statement outside the court, saying he would need time to digest the ruling.
The punishment was harsher than that asked for by corporate watchdog the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, which requested only a five-year ban. Justice Ray Finkelstein called Vizard’s crime “a gross breach of trust” and forced him to pay ASIC’s legal costs.
The case has been a media circus since it was revealed that ASIC decided to go for civil rather than criminal proceedings in return for Vizard’s cooperation. Many media outlets cried favoritism and accused the regulator of lacking the gumption to go after such a high-profile figure.
What followed were numerous column inches devoted to unusually energetic character assassinations of Vizard. In addition, in-depth investigations found a further round of $490,000 dubious share trades by Vizard’s corporate shell Creative Technologies, which he formed to hide his share-buying trail.
Like fallen heroine Martha Stewart, Vizard seemed an unlikely candidate for corporate skullduggery, having first beamed into Oz homes on sketch laffer “Fast Forward.” After leaving the spotlight, he set up production company Artist Services, which became one of the country’s top TV shingles, with hits such as sketch comedy “Full Frontal” and drama “SeaChange.”
In 2002, Vizard was named Australian father of the year, and he was something of a philanthropist, donating art to Victoria’s National Gallery.