The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has signalled its intention to make an example of wrong-doers through what it is describing as legal cases of “high deterrence value” at the same time as suggesting that misconduct by major financial institutions and their representatives could result in criminal prosecutions.
At the same time as pointing to the manner in which it is still working on issues referred to it by the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, the regulator used the release of its latest Corporate Plan to discuss bringing “wrongdoers to account through punishment and public denunciation”.
“In doing so, we not only seek to deter poor behaviour, but to also encourage a greater willingness among entities and individuals to act in accordance with the law and for the benefit of consumers and investors,” the corporate plan said.
“Over the next four years, we will target cases of high deterrence value and those involving egregious harm or misconduct (particularly towards vulnerable consumers). Our enforcement work will be guided by our ‘Why not litigate?’ operational discipline, which addresses the community expectation that unlawful conduct should be punished and publicly denounced through the courts,” it said.
In doing so, it pointed out that ASIC had prioritised 45 matters highlighted by or arising from the Royal Commission.
It said these comprised 13 referrals from the Royal Commission, “for one of which we have commenced proceedings, and 32 matters which were case studies at the Royal Commission hearings and are under investigation”.
“Proceedings have commenced in one of the matters treated as case studies by the Royal Commission, and briefs for two of these matters have been referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. In addition, we are engaged in a large volume of work relating to potential misconduct by major financial institutions and their representatives. A number of these are likely to result in referrals for criminal prosecution.”