17th Oct, 2020
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has announced new relief measures for operators of managed funds to facilitate withdrawals by members who are facing financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The conditional relief will apply to all responsible entities (REs) of registered managed investment schemes (MIS) that have become “frozen funds”.
At times of extreme market volatility, some managed funds may need to suspend redemptions and freeze funds to protect the interests of the members as a whole. A fund is frozen when the responsible entity has suspended or cancelled redemptions to prevent withdrawals from destabilising their fund. When a fund is frozen members will generally not have access to their investments for a period of time. This does not necessarily mean that there has been a loss of asset value or that investors will not get their money back eventually.
The relief measures will ease some of the statutory restrictions on REs and improve access to investments by members who meet specific hardship criteria. REs will still have to act in the best interests of members.
12th Jun, 2020
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has reminded companies, directors and officers faced with COVID-19 challenges to reflect on their fundamental duties to act with due care, skill and diligence, and to act in the best interests of the company.
ASIC Commissioner John Price has said the impacts of COVID-19 will require many companies to focus on and, most likely, recalibrate aspects of their corporate strategy, risk-management framework, and funding and capital management, among other things. This will require directors to reflect on which stakeholders’ interests need to be factored into decisions – including employees, investors and creditors. This is still the case even in areas where temporary relief has been provided from specific obligations under the law.
ASIC will maintain its enforcement activities and continue to investigate and take action where the public interest warrants it. Whether action is taken depends on the assessment of all relevant circumstances, including what a director or officer could reasonably have foreseen at the time of taking relevant decisions or incurring debts.
12th Feb, 2020
In response to the recommendations of the Banking and Financial Services Royal Commission and the ASIC Enforcement Review Taskforce Report, the government has proposed new enforcement and supervision powers for ASIC to restore consumer confidence in the financial system, particularly in relation to financial advice. These new powers include enhanced licensing, banning, warrant and phone tap powers, all designed to ensure that avoidable financial disasters uncovered during the Royal Commission are not repeated again.
While the Banking and Financial Services Royal Commission seems long ago in the minds of many, the people who have been financially affected by dubious practitioners will no doubt carry the scar of mistrust for life. This is precisely why the government has introduced new laws which will give ASIC new enforcement and supervision powers in relation to the financial services sector: to weed out the “bad apples” and restore consumer confidence.
09th Jun, 2019
The Commissioner has published a gazette notice setting out the record keeping requirements for cryptocurrency owners and traders. The ATO advises that it is undertaking a data matching program for 2014-15 to 2019-20 for such entities.
The data obtained from cryptocurrency designated service providers (DSPs) is being (and will continue to be) used to identify the buyers and sellers of crypto- assets and quantify the related transactions. Data will be matched against ATO records to identify individuals who may not be meeting their registration, reporting, lodgment and/or payment obligations.
The ATO will be working with other regulators, in particular, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to ensure that tax law requirements align with a whole of system approach.
12th Oct, 2018
On 24 August 2018, the Royal Commission into banking, superannuation and financial services misconduct released the closing submissions, totalling over 200 pages, that set out possible contraventions by certain superannuation entities. The evidence surrounding these alleged breaches was revealed during the fifth round of public hearings, when high-level executives of some of the largest superannuation funds were grilled about practices that may involve misconduct or fall below community expectations.
The Commission heard evidence about fees-for-no-service conduct and conflicts of interests which affect the ability of some super fund trustees to ensure that they always act in the best interests of members. Questioning during the hearings focused particularly on how trustees supervise the activities of a fund and respond to queries from the regulators. Executives were also quizzed about expenditure on advertisements and sporting sponsorships, and finally, the Commission turned its attention to the effectiveness of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) as regulators.
The Royal Commission’s interim report is now due, and the sixth round of public hearings (10–21 September 2018) is investigating conduct in the insurance industry. The Royal Commission has released four background papers covering life insurance, group life insurance, reforms to general and life insurance (Treasury) and features of the general and life insurance industries.
12th Sep, 2018
In a speech to the Financial Services Council Summit on 26 July 2018, Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) Chair James Shipton said the superannuation sector must restore the “trust deficit” and be more mindful of the responsibilities that come with being the custodians of other people’s money. Mr Shipton said the super industry has been exploiting opportunities to make money from members, citing examples of conduct that could lead to poor member outcomes, including poor advice, treatment of customers and defensiveness when it came to transparency about fund operations.
Mr Shipton said there is an urgent need for super funds to invest in systems, procedures and policies that can quickly identify emerging conduct and systemic issues. A recent ASIC review of 12 banking groups found that it took an average of four years between an issue occurring and being identified internally for investigation, before a significant breach report was finally lodged with ASIC.