New regulatory obligations for product design and distribution will stop product issuers from shifting the blame for poor client outcomes to ‘product sellers’, according to ASIC.
Speaking at the ASIC Regulatory Update in Melbourne this week, ASIC deputy chair Peter Kell noted that Treasurer Scott Morrison and Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer have jointly announced increased regulatory powers and obligations.
These increased powers include “significantly stronger and clearer” rules on licensees’ breach reporting obligations, a stronger ability for ASIC to take action against senior staff within a business, a 'directions power' that ASIC can use to force licensees to take particular remedial actions, and stronger penalties for licensees.
“In the financial year that has just ended, ASIC’s enforcement outcomes included 21 criminal convictions, 27 civil proceedings completed, and 27 court enforceable undertakings. We obtained almost $350 million for consumers in compensation,” Mr Kell said.
“We banned 127 financial advisers or credit providers, and disqualified 49 directors. In other words, enforcement is very much a focus for ASIC, but what has also been clear is that ASIC’s powers and penalties have needed an upgrade.”
However, Mr Kell added that new obligations for product manufacturers will also help to rebuild trust in the industry.
“There are several other areas of regulatory reform which will play an important part in addressing the 'trust deficit', and improving standards in the financial services sector,” he said.
“These are financial product design and distribution obligations and the introduction of product intervention powers for ASIC.”
According to Mr Kell, these proposed obligations will “bring accountability to issuers and distributors of products” by making sure all products are designed with the needs of customers in mind.
“There will no longer be the opportunity for 'product manufacturers' to shift blame to 'product sellers' and vice versa when something goes wrong, which has been an unfortunate feature of the financial services industry for too long,” Mr Kell said.
“The reform signals that responsibility for good consumer outcomes runs right across the supply chain.”
Government has also looked into the possibility of granting ASIC intervention powers to act where it believes a product is “identified as creating a risk of significant consumer detriment”, Mr Kell said.
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