ASIC will delay some of its regulatory activities in order to provide relief to firms “under enormous strain” from the COVID-19 pandemic.
ASIC has delayed activities it considers “not immediately necessary” – including consultations, regulatory reports and reviews – and halted all onsite supervisory work.
“To assist firms, ASIC will limit the regulatory activity that they will need to respond to as much as possible,” ASIC chair James Shipton said.
“We are also working with the financial industry to identify other areas where we can provide support. However, it is important to note that this is not an abrogation of our regulatory work, but a recognition that some existing activities and new tasks must take precedence over work we would otherwise be doing.”
ASIC has stepped up its market supervision work to “protect against manipulation and abuse”, heightened support for consumers at risk of scams, and will also work to support firms by facilitating capital raisings and other urgent transactions and providing regulatory relief.
“ASIC recognises that participants in the Australian financial services sector are under enormous strain due to the effects of COVID-19,” Mr Shipton said.
“We also acknowledge that they are taking special measures to support their customers who are adversely affected. We expect them to continue to act fairly and in the best interest of consumers in these extraordinary times.”
While the regulator will continue with enforcement actions, the timing and process of investigations might change in response to COVID-19, but said that it will continue to keep a close eye on potential rulebreakers.
It will also make sure that key functions – including registry operations and services, receipt of whistleblower breach and misconduct reports, and general industry contact points – will be available for those who rely on them.
“COVID-19 has increased the workload of our organisation as there is a heightened risk of significant consumer harm, the possibility of serious breaches of the financial services laws, and challenges in ensuring market integrity and the continued funding of companies and the economy,” Mr Shipton said.
“ASIC is being especially vigilant in addressing predatory practices, scams and fraud.”
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