JOHN BRINGS A WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE TO HIS JOINT ROLE AS GENERAL EDITOR FOR COMPANY AND SECURITIES LAW IN NEW ZEALAND, FARRAR AND WATSON (EDS). HE HAS AN EXTENSIVE TEACHING BACKGROUND AND HAS HELD POSITIONS AS THE DEAN OF LAW AT THE UNIVERSITIES OF CANTERBURY AND WAIKATO IN NEW ZEALAND, AND BOND UNIVERSITY, QUEENSLAND. HE HAS PRACTICED IN BOTH LONDON AND NEW ZEALAND, AND HAS BEEN ACTIVE IN LAW REFORM IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, NEW ZEALAND AND AUSTRALIA.
1. How do you think legal online resources and information are shaping legal study, research and practice?
They improve ease of access and are revolutionising legal research, mainly due to the speed that information can be made available. Practitioners and those in academia can access case law and legislative changes much more quickly than before. Another real benefit is the development of global online legal platforms, where one can access international cases as well as domestic ones.
2. As a General Editors for Company and Securities Law in New Zealand, Farrar and Watson (eds), what do you believe the benefits of this product’s transition to online are?
Currency is the greatest benefit. It is now possible to update online content on a regular basis. Also, online content will link with other Brookers Online company and securities law databases and link to other further resources, for example, NZX Listing Rules and corporate governance guides.
3. What has been the impact of the global financial crisis on New Zealand?
Every country is responding to the global financial crisis. New Zealand has been slow off the mark. However, Jane Diplock has played an active part in IOSCO. The independent panel to review the Securities Commission reported in 2009 and emphasised that the main constraints on the Securities Commission’s effectiveness lay outside its direct control. They sprang from weaknesses in the current legislation, with its narrow mandate and proliferation of regulatory bodies. A comprehensive overhaul was necessary. Following this, the Task Force on Capital Market Development reported in on 16 December 2009 and the Minister of Commerce announced the creation of a Financial Markets Authority. This is subject to the government action plan. Under the new regime, the FMA will become the financial markets regulator while the Reserve Bank remains the prudential regulator.
4. The World Bank lists New Zealand at the top of the most business-friendly countries in the World. Have you any concerns that continuing globalisation, along with New Zealand’s ever-closer business and regulatory ties with other countries, may cause New Zealand to be less business-friendly in future?
One must distinguish between being business-friendly and being lax. The ambition of the 1980s was to make New Zealand the Delaware of the South Pacific. What people did not remember was that Delaware has business friendly corporate legislation, but this is against the background of much tougher securities regulation, which is federal.
While criticisms have been made recently of the Securities Exchange Commission’s performance, especially under the George W. Bush administration, it is still a much more rigorous regulator than New Zealand has experienced. New Zealand has to respond to international influences and those influences at the moment are much more stringent on the entire financial sector.
5. If you could change any aspect of New Zealand’s company and securities regime, what would you deem to be the most important overall?
A greater clarification of directors’ duties and more efficient enforcement, both public and private. To achieve greater accountability among directors, particularly in respect of self-interested transactions. One of the things the collapse of New Zealand finance companies has demonstrated has been the weakness of the law in related-party transactions.
6. You currently divide you time between lecturing at the University of Auckland Business School and Bond University. How does your role as an author and researcher impress on your role as a lecturer?
Research and writing makes you a better lecturer. There is more to law lecturing than being an entertainer although that helps. The law is in a constant state of flux. I am somewhat concerned that the PBRF research assessment exercise undervalues writing for the legal profession and the courts. This is not wise particularly in a small jurisdiction like New Zealand where there has been a healthy relationship with the universities in the past.