Gregg will return to the District Court in Sydney on January 31 for sentencing, and given he was convicted on two counts, could face up to four years in jail or fines up to $42,000.

Just as with the royal commission, the Gregg case should also huge questions about the role of risk management and compliance in Australian boardrooms.

We shouldn’t ask why a board couldn’t prevent this sort of behaviour – as NAB chairman Ken Henry clumsily told the commission, asking a board of a dozen people to ensure midsconduct doesn’t occur is unrealistic.

But we should ask whether boards have allowed cultures to exist where top executives at our biggest companies felt prepared to take these sorts of risks.

Questions too need to be asked what the role of the advisers of these companies, who are quick to talk about grand ideas such as rebuilding trust, and usually even quicker to join the directors’ club.

Behind many examples of misconduct in the royal commission was legal advice that sort to defend an example of poor behaviour, without addressing the cause of it. This would invariably be followed up by a review by an accounting or consulting firm, many of which seemed designed to give more comfort than criticism.

Some directors may decry social license as a vague, rubbery and subjective idea that is hard to put into words, let alone codify.

Maybe for some it is a difficult concept to grasp, and maybe it is too hard to put down in a set of guidelines.

But if you think any director or executive at one of our big four banks is confused about the importance of social license then you’re living on another planet.

And the costs are real. Looks at the billions of dollars wiped off the value of the banks’ share prices, their huge customer remediation bills, the hundreds of millions of dollars they will spend in the community, and on advertising, and on lobbying.

The toll isn’t paid yet, either. The looming federal election, which will likely be prefaced by the release of the royal commission’s final report, could well turn into a bank bashing frenzy, as both sides of politics try to look tougher than the other.

This will extend to other industries too. The private health insurance sector already faces the prospect of caps on premium rises and we’ve just seen the ridiculous idea of forced divestments waved over the energy sector.

The shame of corporate Australia’s annus horribilis is that there are many great businesses in Australia doing great things – employing people, creating wealth, looking after their communities, delivering for shareholders and taking an active part in important national conversations.

But after this year, we can’t blame a few bad apples. This is a much deeper problem that Australia’s business leaders must thoughtfully address.

James Thomson

j.thomson@afr.com

What has emerged is a picture of a culture where profit is what matters, where corners are there to be cut, and where the ends justify the means. David Rowe

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