‘Enforcement boost’ seen coming to Australia’s ASIC

Australia’s government today unveiled new legislation it says will give the country’s financial services regulator new powers, and an extra deputy chairperson to enforce them. 

An outline of the plans to give increased enforcement powers to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission was contained in a 340-word statement released by Kelly O’Dwyer, minister for revenue and financial services, which said the legislation was being introduced in Parliament by the Turnbull government “to enhance [ASIC’s] capabilities, by providing it with greater operational flexibility and making express provision for the regulator to consider competition in its decision-making processes”.

The proposed legislation may be viewed on the Australian Parliament’s website, where it is called the “Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing ASIC’s Capabilities) bill 2018”, and where a 17-page pdf version may be read and downloaded.

Among the legislation’s stated goals is giving ASIC greater powers to to intervene in the sale and distribution of financial products where there could be risk of consumer detriment.

Meanwhile, according to the news.com.au website, O’Dwyer said the government intends to nominate a senior lawyer, Daniel Crennan, to a newly-created second deputy position at ASIC.

Referring to what she said is the legislation’s intention of making it easier for ASIC to employ people by removing a legal technicality, O’Dwyer’s statement noted that would give the commission “greater operational flexibility” in terms of hiring, while at the same time bringing it into line with the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

“ASIC will now have the ability to attract and retain the most appropriate people, to achieve its short- and long-term priorities,” O’Dwyer added, in her statement.

“To be able to perform their roles effectively in accordance with their legislative mandate, regulators need to be able to attract and retain suitably skilled and experienced staff.

“Competition in the financial system is critical to ensuring the system delivers good outcomes for Australians. Competition puts strong discipline on businesses to lower costs associated with the delivery of financial products and services. It further encourages innovation and deployment of new technology, and delivers more choice for consumers, at lower prices.

“Ultimately it is competition – not regulation – that is the best means of ensuring that consumers and investors get value for money in financial products and services. Both consumers and financial product and service providers – particularly new entrants – benefit from a more competitive financial system.”

To read O’Dwyer’s statement on the finance ministry’s website, which is headed “Government takes action to enhance ASIC’s capabilities”, click here.

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