Commonwealth Bank of Australia names Clayton Utz executive chair as new GC

Karen O’Flynn to succeed incumbent Carmel Mulhern having acted for the banking giant in Royal Commission into misconduct in banking and financial services sector

Karen O'Flynn Image courtesy of the Commonwealth Bank

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has hired the executive chair of top tier Australian law firm Clayton Utz, Karen O’Flynn, as its next group general counsel.  

O’Flynn is set to take over on 1 September from current group GC Carmel Mulhern; like Mulhern she will also serve as group executive legal and group secretariat to the bank’s executive leadership team.

O’Flynn is recognised as a leading insolvency and restructuring practitioner and commercial litigator in Australia. She has been a partner at Clayton Utz since 1996 and during her time at the firm has held a number of leadership positions, including national practice group leader for insolvency and restructuring and elected director of the board as well as, since 2020, chair of the board. 

She was one of a core group of Clayton Utz partners that acted for CBA in the Royal Commission into misconduct in the banking and financial services sector, which ran for two years from 2017 and was sparked by a whistleblower’s claims about a cover up of the activities of a former financial planner at CBA. 

CBA chief executive officer, Matt Comyn, said: “Karen brings a breadth of experience in financial services over her legal career, including supporting the bank through the Royal Commission. The leadership team and I look forward to welcoming her to CBA.”

For her part, Mulhern joined CBA as GC at the start of 2020 after almost two decades at Australian telecoms giant Telstra, where she rose to become group general counsel. She will leave the CBA at the end of August, with the bank saying she had “decided to move to the next phase of her career as a non-executive director”.

Comyn said Mulhern had been “a valued member of the bank’s executive leadership team, with a strong focus on our customers and our people. During her time with CBA, she has played an important role in ensuring the fair and efficient resolution of the group’s legal matters, as well as strengthening our relationships with key stakeholders.”

He added: “Under Carmel’s leadership, CBA’s corporate governance processes have also been simplified to support the effectiveness of the board. We thank Carmel for her contribution to CBA and wish her all the best for the future.”

News of O’Flynn’s appointment follows reports that CBA yesterday (26 June) suffered a major outage that left customers unable to access their accounts for several hours.

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