The provision of poor advice to retail investors, and compliance with reforms that banned conflicted compensation structures and imposed higher conduct standards, remain key concerns for regulators in Australia.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) on Wednesday issued a review of its enforcement activity over the second half of 2015. Regulators are continuing to focus on improving the culture in the financial services industry, among other issues, according to the report.
“The trust and confidence of investors and financial consumers have been significantly eroded over the past few years due to poor conduct within the financial industry,” the report says. It cites “the provision of poor advice,” the mis-selling of financial products and suspected financial benchmark and foreign exchange manipulation.
Looking ahead, the integrity of financial market benchmarks remains a high priority, as do disclosure obligations and market abuse, the report notes. Additionally, an ongoing project “to lift the standards of major financial advice providers” remains a high priority for the foreseeable future, the report says.
Under, the ASIC Wealth Management Project — which was established in October 2014 to boost standards, enhance the quality of advice, and improve remediation to clients who have suffered losses as a result of poor advice — the report notes the ASIC is conducting “a significant number of investigations and risk-based surveillances targeting a range of misconduct.” These include compliance with reforms that banned commissions and imposed a “best interests” duty, among other things.
The project has resulted in the banning of 12 advisors, among other sanctions. “The project will continue its investigations and surveillance in pursuing a range of regulatory outcomes,” the report says.
“ASIC does everything in its power to detect and take action against those who break the law, to ensure consumers can have trust and confidence in our financial markets and financial services industry. This report highlights our strong recent enforcement record and ongoing areas of focus,” says ASIC commissioner Greg Tanzer, in an announcement about the report’s release.