ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft has declared he is "not afraid to take on any big institution" in the wake of a damning Senate committee report into the regulator's handling of the Commonwealth Financial Planning scandal.
Speaking at the ASIC offices in Sydney following the release of the final Senate Economics References Committee report into the performance of ASIC, Mr Medcraft pointed to his past record.
"We’ve taken on the CBA and sued them for hundreds of millions. We’ve taken on Macquarie Bank and sued them for hundreds of millions. Bank of Queensland is something that I continue to pursue," he said.
Mr Medcraft said he has made it very clear to the key players in the industry that ASIC has accumulated "substantial reserves" to take on "any big institution".
"That is why, in fact, the government gives us that enforcement special account, so that if we want to pursue any major litigation, nobody is too big," he said.
Mr Medcraft acknowledged that the corporate regulator must have "relationships" with the major institutions because they form such a large part of the financial sector.
"But at the end of the day, frankly, I’m not reluctant to take any of them on. And I have," he said.
"I’ve made it very clear that in terms of penalties, I’d actually like to have heavier penalties to pursue those that do wrong."
Asked whether he thought ASIC was "feared", he said that the companies the regulator has pursued in the past would probably say as much.
"As a former investment banker, unfortunately it’s fear versus greed," said Mr Medcraft.
"If you’re going to have an effective financial system, you’ve got to make it very clear to those that breach the law ... that the penalties will be absolutely severe and that we will pursue them.
"The more that you can lift the fear and suppress the greed, the more you end up with a stronger financial system so that those that even [consider] it think twice about it."
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