That whole culture doesn’t promote good governance – supported by accountability, transparency and disclosure,” Mayne says. Nor does Mayne think more frequent disclosure of financial positions would promote short-termism in members, just as company disclosure does not prevent people investing for the long term. “It’s not that much different from the daily publication of a share price, is it? I mean, they would have a regular assessment of the value of the portfolio – it’s worked out by management and presented to the board. They’re always getting updates. I can’t see why more of that information can’t be released on the website of the super fund so that members who are interested can access it,” he says. “I think people are mature enough to say we are inventing for the long term and this is the snap shot of where we’re currently at.”
Mayne is scathing of the inaccessibility of financial reports, but he’s even more critical of the non-disclosure of executive pay in audited reports. The matter of disclosing pay is a small but stark difference between what super funds and listed companies are required to include on their audited reports. “It’s completely hypocritical that super funds are voting on the disclosed pay figures for the companies they invest in whilst not disclosing their own executive pay,” he says. “It’s good practice – we can see if people are getting ripped off. I mean why should a super fund be able to secretly give $5 million bucks to their chief executive and not disclose it? Politicians pay is disclosed, directors fees are disclosed: its ridiculous in this era of remuneration disclosure that we’ve got a trillion dollars of super fund money out there being managed by people on secret salaries.”
Mayne suggests that super funds managing above a determined amount should have to disclose executive and director pay as good disclosure practice. ACSI chief executive Ann Byrne doubts disclosure of super fund executive pay would serve any real purpose in super funds. Nor does the former UniSuper CEO agree that more should be demanded of super fund transparency in light of what is demanded of publicly owned companies. “We do think transparency and increasing disclosure is a good thing, but super funds and public companies are different sort of beasts,” Byrne says. “Super funds do disclose this information when requested by their members, which is the important thing.” Byrne gives her reasons for holding companies to a different accountability standard. “Public companies are required to constantly disclose their financial status because everyone in the public has the option to buy shares of that company at any time,” she says.