ASIC expects to make more wealth industry referrals to prosecutors

ASIC’s wealth management project is focused on financial advice businesses owned by National Australia Bank, Westpac, Commonwealth bank, ANZ Bank, Macquarie and AMP.

An ASIC spokesman on Thursday said the regulator had a “very clear will to take wrongdoers to court”.

“As the royal commission found, that is what Australians expect of their regulator. And that is what ASIC will deliver,” the spokesman said.

The new figures come as ASIC has been ramping up its rhetoric towards banks, with chairman James Shipton this week highlighting its tougher penalties and ordering banks to “obey the law”.

Last month, deputy chairman Daniel Crennan said there was probably a case for changing laws so ASIC could more easily pursue individuals, for the purpose of deterrence.

At the time, Mr Crennan said the prospect of individual fines or jail time was “something that will affect the culture within those industries”.

The chief executives of ANZ Bank and National Australia Bank were both asked this week about recent comments from ASIC highlighting its tougher penalties — including jail time — and whether it might have unintended consequences. Both acknowledged that if people broke the law there should be consequences.

ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott said he had not read Mr Crennan’s comments in detail, but added: “I would have thought the right outcome here is not how many people are in jail, but is actually, do we have a fully functioning financial system that’s responsible and generates good outcomes for our customers.”

NAB’s interim chief executive, Phil Chronican, said deliberate law breaking needed consequences. If people had broken the law “inadvertently”, he said, “one hopes the burden of proof for a criminal case is such that anyone who is found guilty warranted it”.

“Clearly a more fearful management cohort may arise from that, but I do think it’s difficult to defend deliberate breaking of the law,” Mr Chronican said.


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