Questions need to be asked regarding why the corporate regulator sees it unnecessary to publish the 433 submissions it received for its consultation paper on access to affordable financial advice.
The reason why the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) needs to be asked this is given the already negative views of its exponentially increasing levy for financial advisers, it needs to explain why it is not releasing information that has been paid for by advisers.
ASIC revealed to a Parliamentary committee that it had spent $386,480 on its unmet advice needs project, which went towards staffing and three pieces of commissioned research.
Given the regulator employed external consultants, it is only fair advisers should be able to access the submissions made as the ASIC levy is paid for by advisers and covers all sorts of expenditure including enforcement activity that does not involve most advisers.
The justifications ASIC has used to not publish the submissions include the fact that it will soon publish a document that captures a “high-level summary of key issues raised in the submissions and provides public transparency of the issues raised”, some submissions were provided in confidence, and that individuals might not welcome publication of their submissions.
However, opting not to publish submissions seems contrary to the regulator claiming their soon-to-be published document is transparent given nobody will be able to cross check what has been said in submissions and what had been published in the document.
Not only this, ASIC could redact personal information from the submissions to get around confidentiality issues.
It would be wise for ASIC to be more transparent about the work they do on advice, especially when it is funded by the advice industry, as its levy has been under scrutiny by not only the industry but by parliamentarians who have called the levy unsustainable.
Transparency would be welcomed by the industry to know what they are actually funding and it is likely ASIC will continue to be questioned on its levy justification.