ASIC decides not to pursue five referrals from financial services royal commission

By Melissa Coade

February 14, 2022

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Fake websites are offering tax file numbers and ABNs for a fee.(mehaniq41/Adobe)

Five of 13 referrals to the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) from the landmark financial services royal commission have been concluded with no further action.

On Friday, ASIC chair Joseph Longo told the parliamentary joint committee on corporations and financial services that one of the 13 referrals from the royal commission was for civil litigation and that the CDPP was prosecuting another two, having already laid charges. 

“One matter has received judgment with a $20 million civil penalty, one matter has received judgment with a $57.5 million civil penalty, one matter has received judgment with a $1.5 million civil penalty and two other matters have received judgment with declarations made,” Longo said.

But after investigations into five referrals from the Inquiry into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, ASIC had chosen not to take further action, the chair said. 

Judgments with declarations were handed down in two other separate court cases that came about as a result of the royal commission.

ASIC has also successfully investigated and litigated a large number of the case studies explored during the Royal Commission, Longo said, listing Federal Court proceedings against Insurance Australia Limited (IAL), Westpac, ANZ, and MLC Limited.

A Federal Court decision in December, which handed down a $30 million penalty to four companies in the Mayfair 101 Group, was being appealed by the respondents, Longo added.

New unit to pursue regulatory efficiency agenda

Last November, ASIC established a dedicated regulatory efficiency unit (REU) to remove ‘unnecessary frictions’ and improve business efficiencies.

The chair said that the agency had already consulted with more than 70 stakeholders and was meeting with business, industry associations, academics and other interested groups.

“The REU will identify a set of initiatives this year that aim to improve the efficiency of ASIC’s interactions with its regulated population,” Logo said. 

“We are also working hard to assist the Financial Regulator Assessment Authority with its important work.”

Looking at work for the year ahead, Logo said ASIC’s internal priorities included digital uplift, strengthening the agency’s communication with stakeholders and other regulatory agencies, and infrastructure and systems improvements. He added that better use of data and cyber resilience were also a focus for 2022.

“ASIC will be seeking remedies that deliver quicker outcomes, in cases that are chosen more carefully, following investigations that are more timely,” Logo said.

“ASIC is also focused on raising awareness of new and continuing regulatory obligations.”

“ESG and Crypto and cyber-resilience have been three areas of focus that will no doubt remain of the highest order this year,” he said. 

Strategic priorities for the financial year were still being developed, with ASIC having published a corporate plan and statement of intent. Logo said that one of the main threads in ASIC’s 2022 activities included monitoring and engaging with the ASX on the CHESS replacement program, together with the RBA, the Council of Financial Regulations (CFR) and the ACCC.


Regulators and legislators playing catch-up

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