Report finds corporate watchdogs lose 4000 staff

A STUDY of corporate regulatory bodies has uncovered widespread misconduct in Australia's private sector while corporate watchdogs are reduced to skeleton staffing levels.

The Australia Institute's Corporate Malfeasance in Australia report found the country's six major regulatory bodies and related agencies had seen 3926 staff cut, or 14.9%, between the 2013-14 and 2015-16 budgets.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions commissioned the research.It found the ACCC had taken action against 669 companies over the past decade, with 92 incidents related to the top 50 listed companies in Australia.

ASIC had closed 3115 cases over the past four-and-a-half years, more than 2000 of which were criminal.

The review found the ATO had recovered $3.5 billion in tax from companies trying to hide profits, with $2.3 billion recovered in 2012-13 alone from building and construction firms.

The Fair Work Ombuds-man has recovered $250 million for more than 174,000 employees over the past nine years.

The Fair Work Commission handled 71,000 unfair dismissal claims over six years - 80% of which were against large employers.

The Australia Institute director of research Rod Campbell said the figures proved the regulatory bodies deserved greater funding.

"You wouldn't lay off 15% of your firefighters in the middle of a bad bushfire season, but that's effectively what we're doing with white-collar crime," he said.

"The important work of cracking down on malfeasance in the private sector is clearly not a priority for a government which slashes resources to those who monitor wrongdoing.

"This research shows that these bodies are uncovering billions of dollars' worth of malfeasance cases every year.

At the end of the day, unchecked malfeasance hurts workers, contractors, investors and taxpayers."ACTU president Ged Kearney said the findings were the tip of the iceberg.

"Given so many corporate breaches go unreported, imagine the flagrant unlawful conduct going on every day in corporate Australia," she said.