ASIC has revealed its enforcement priorities for 2023, focusing on the need to protect consumers from financial harm and on upholding the integrity of Australia’s financial markets.
Speaking at the ASIC Annual Forum in Sydney on Thursday, ASIC deputy chair Sarah Court said that the regulator’s priorities in the year ahead will include enforcement action on greenwashing and a continued focus on combating and disrupting investment scams.
“This is the first time ASIC has identified particular areas of enforcement focus, which we now expect to do on an annual basis,” she said.
“These priorities communicate our intent to industry and our stakeholders, and give a clear indication of where we will direct our resources and expertise.”
On the issue of greenwashing, ASIC has already begun taking action against organisations which misrepresent the extent to which financial products or investment strategies are environmentally friendly, sustainable or ethical.
As part of its priorities for 2023, the regulator said that it will be closely watching for misleading conduct and claims of greenwashing that cannot be sustained, and vowed to take enforcement action where necessary.
ASIC noted that, after receiving over 2,200 reports of misconduct relating to crypto-assets and crypto scams in the two years to June, it has also made protecting Australians from investment scams and high-risk investment products like crypto a priority.
“Australians have experienced a range of financial pressures in recent years, from the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic to increased costs of living. On top of this, many have been affected by investment scams,” said Ms Court.
“We are prioritising the disruption of scams, including through working with other regulators, industry and social media platforms to reduce harm.”
With research by ASIC showing that 40 per cent of Australians hold two or more credit products, protecting consumers from predatory lending practices has also been prioritised.
“In addition to misconduct in the credit industry, ASIC will focus on failures in the general insurance industry to honour promises to consumers, as well as addressing unfair contract terms in insurance products,” Ms Court added.
“In the superannuation sector, we will look to take action where we see instances of misleading conduct and poor governance.”
Poor design, pricing and distribution of financial products, misinformation through social media about investment products, governance and director's duties failures and manipulation in energy and commodities derivatives markets will also be on the regulator’s radar.
“ASIC’s enforcement work will not be limited to these priorities, and these may evolve as new and emerging issues or products come to our attention,” said Ms Court.
“We will continue to direct our enforcement resources to ensure we maintain a fair, strong and efficient financial system for all Australians.”
Jon Bragg is a journalist for Momentum Media's Investor Daily, nestegg and ifa. He enjoys writing about a wide variety of financial topics and issues and exploring the many implications they have on all aspects of life.