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Top Female Lawyer To Head ACCC

Gina Cass-Gottlieb has been appointed as the next head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Cass-Gottlieb founded leading practice Gilbert + Tobin in the 1990s, and has famously worked on a number of high-profile mergers, including the Tabcorp Tattersalls merger which was unsuccessfully opposed by the ACCC.

Rod Sims will stand down as chairman next year, following 11 years in the job, with Cass-Gottlieb taking over on March 21.

Much has been made of the appointment of a lawyer after a long period of the ACCC being ran by economists.

“We’ve had two economists with [Alan] Fels and [Rod] Sims but, frankly, when you get into the enforcement, I think lawyers are to be preferred because it is in their DNA,” previous chair Graeme Samuel said of Cass-Gottlieb’s appointment.

“The message coming out of government and Josh Frydenberg is that regulators ought to regulate and just leave the policy stuff to us, thanks.

“She knows what a regulator needs to do and because she is a lawyer, she will focus on enforcement and be less focused on policy, which can sometimes be a diversion.”

Alan Fels, also former chair, said: “Despite the many virtues of economists as chairs, it’s timely to have a lawyer, but one with a public interest orientation, as chair”.

“Personally, I have been hoping and urging her for over 30 tears to join the ACCC, and I’m glad it’s happened at last,” he said.

Exiting Chair Rod Sims denies the narrative that lawyers are strictly interested in enforcing the law.

“I don’t see why people think lawyers aren’t interested in changing the law – many politicians are lawyers,” Sims said.

“The ACCC sees the laws up close and therefore were in a very good position to form a view as to whether the laws are working or not.

“Time will tell … but keep in mind the whole organisation is a range of commissioners and the various advocacy things I’ve been pushing are ones I’m doing on behalf of the commission.”

Sims says Cass-Gottlieb is “very skilled, extremely intelligent and will fit in very well at the ACCC”.

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