AFSL applicants caught ‘misleading’ ASIC

Several companies have applied for AFSL licences using false or misleading information, indicating there are "serious issues" of poor culture regarding compliance, ASIC has said.

In its third report on licensing activity, the corporate regulator noted that ASIC's licensing team found instances where AFSL applicants provided fake business references or failed to mention their 'responsible manager' was bankrupt.

ASIC said these instances are indicative of a culture problem.

"This report notes a number of cases where our licensing team has detected serious issues reflecting a poor culture and attitude towards compliance," the regulator said.

"Our licensing team will deal with such conduct immediately as part of the licence assessment process when it is detected... We may also commence enforcement action, including initiating criminal proceedings."

Other examples of applicants using false or misleading information include one where a responsible manager failed to note he or she had been the subject of disciplinary action or was being investigated.

Applicants have also misled ASIC about their ongoing organisational competence and intended business operations, officers and controllers.

"The provision of false or misleading information in support of a licence or professional registration application has the potential to significantly undermine confidence in the licensing and registration assessment process," the report said.

"We will continue to scrutinise the veracity of representations to ensure that such behaviour is appropriately dealt with."

ASIC's licensing report, titled Overview of licensing and professional registration applications: July to December 2015, showed that during this period, there were 1,006 AFSL applications.

Of those, 338 (34 per cent) were approved. The rest were either rejected (108), withdrawn (111), refused (4) or were still being assessed (445).

In addition, 11 AFSLs were suspended during the six month-period and another 61 licences cancelled.

Of those, 50 were cancelled at the request of licensee, with the main reason being the company had ceased to operate a financial services business as a result of retirement or sale.

The majority of those suspended had entered external administration, the report said.

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