Under-fire Racing Integrity Unit chairman Kerry Hoggard has resigned from his position, saying he did not want the industry watchdog's work undermined by questions about his own integrity.
Hoggard stood down after a meeting of Harness Racing New Zealand late last week. He was harness' nomination to the board, which is the disciplinary body for harness, thoroughbred and greyhound racing.
His appointment to the unit was strongly criticised by former ACT MP Stephen Franks, who labelled it a "bad joke".
Franks forced the millionaire businessman into a $520,000 settlement in an insider-trading case in 2000 after a Securities Commission investigation and said he was stunned to learn Hoggard had been appointed to lead the racing disciplinary body given his record.
RIU chief executive Mike Godber confirmed he received formal notification of Hoggard's resignation yesterday.
A new chairman would be named once harness nominated a replacement for Hoggard.
Godber said the RIU would not be making a formal statement about Hoggard's resignation and he had been given no reasons for his departure.
However, Hoggard told Fairfax NZ he was aware of the criticisms by Franks and racing trainer Leo Molloy and said: "I regard the integrity function of the racing industry as very important and if we got into a situation where a case was put, I didn't want that sidetracked in any way by thoughts about the integrity of its acting chairman."
Molloy had earlier said: "How can we expect the wider public to perceive our industry as having integrity when we make appointments like this?"
Hoggard quit as chairman of multinational Fletcher Challenge over the 2000 case, where he bought $635,000 of company stock just before it revealed a restructure and its best half-year earnings in four years.
Franks and the late Business Roundtable boss Roger Kerr won an out-of-court settlement against Mr Hoggard, who repaid the difference in share price, and $350,000 went towards establishing the Business Integrity Trust.
It also emerged that Hoggard had breached Fletcher's internal trading rules once before, in 1998.
"I can understand that you don't hold offences against people forever, but my experience of him was he was completely unrecognising of his ethical duties," Franks told Fairfax Media earlier this month.
"So I am stunned he could head something with that name [Racing Integrity Unit] unless he has been serving in soup kitchens or doing something else that shows he's had a dramatic conversion."
Hoggard bought his stock a day after the board meeting where the results were returned and the restructure agreed but before they were revealed to the public, despite Fletcher's company secretary advising against the trade.
He had also bought shares two years earlier on the same day the company's annual results were to be revealed.
"With his skills and demonstrated talents in business, he could be useful in any industry," Franks said, "but reputation is important: so unless it is really obvious to everyone that he has had a really big change of heart and character, it is appalling that he is bearing a label that makes him a judge of other people's integrity."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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