Life/risk advisers ran into a brick wall when trying to utilise Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act) provisions to discover how the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) developed its Report 413, widely regarded as a key precursor to the introduction of the Life Insurance Framework (LIF).
On the eve of today’s Money Management Risk Breakfast in Sydney, the publication was provided with a copy of the ASIC correspondence refusing access to documentation relating to Report 413.
However, what that correspondence confirms is that the regulator developed a Surveillance Plan for a “Life Insurance Churn Project” in November 2013, and that it also developed a Project Plan for “Life insurance churn policy component of life insurance”.
According to the ASIC correspondence obtained by Money Management, each of the documents identified by regulator as pertaining to Report 413 were deemed to be “exempt” and could therefore not be released.
Among the reasons given by the ASIC officer handling the case was that she was satisfied that the release of the documents “would identify how ASIC gathers intelligence, the assessment procedure that ASIC applies, and how ASIC detects and selects matters requiring further surveillance or investigation”.
“If people become aware of ASIC methods and procedures used for preventing, detecting or dealing with breaches or evasions of the law, those methods and procedures will no longer be effective,” the ASIC official said. “The release of this material would provide forewarning of the considerations used by ASIC to assess information and of ASIC’s regulatory response.”
The ASIC correspondence finished on the note: “On balance, I find that disclosure of the conditionally exempt documents would be contrary to the public interest. The public benefit that lies in disclosure is outweighed by the adverse effects of ASIC’s operational activities. I find, therefore, that these documents are exempt from release.”
The good news for the life/risk advisers who sought the documents is that the officer decided not to impose processing charges related to their FOI request.