Vas Kolesnikoff, director of proxy adviser ISS, said investors were increasingly focused on prior governance experience and while Mr Maxsted is regarded as “one of the top directors in the country”, his reputation took a hit during banking royal commission and Westpac’s anti-money laundering scandal, which could have put pressure on him to step down from BHP.
Mr Kolesnikoff said company directors in Australia should be forced to stand for re-election each year, adopting the norm in the United Kingdom and America. “The directors have been resisting that here in Australia with an assortment of unsubstantiated assertions like the instability of boards,” Mr he said.
“Knowing what’s happened with Westpac, there’s no doubt you would have some people at Transurban going ‘hang on, we just voted [Mr Maxsted for re-election]. We’d like him to justify his position on the board.’
“But that doesn’t happen.”
In November, Westpac was hit with a lawsuit by financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC that alleged the lender breached anti-money laundering laws more than 23 million times.
The outcome of the legal action is yet to be determined and Westpac could be fined upwards of $1 billion raising questions about the board’s risk management capabilities.
Mr Maxsted, who is 65, is also chairman of toll road group Transurban and was re-elected for another three-year term as chairman in October at the company’s annual general meeting.
During his speech at the AGM in Melbourne, Mr Maxsted said he would “most likely retire from the board over the next few years” due to the company’s policy on director tenure, which would relieve him of all three board positions he has served for over a decade.