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Embedded ASIC agents risk ‘capture’: Shipton

By Tim Stewart
2 minute read

ASIC chairman James Shipton is asking the government for additional funds to embed his staff within the major banks, but he is wary of the risk of ‘regulatory capture’.

At a public hearing of the House of Representative Economics Committee on Friday, Liberal MP Trevor Evans asked ASIC chairman James Shipton about an ASIC proposal to ‘embed’ its agents within financial institutions.

Under the proposal, ASIC staff would monitor the culture and compliance of the major banks from within rather than at legalistic “arm's length” – a proposal Mr Evans endorsed.

“It’s a style of collaboration which would be less legalistic, quicker and much more efficient in the use of regulator resources instead of arm's-length legal tussles,” Mr Evans said.

“It would hopefully, with the cooperation of a lot of businesses, tease out the noncompliance that sits there in a non-deliberate, minor, systemic sort of way,” he said.

In response, Mr Shipton acknowledged ASIC has approached Treasury about the matter, saying there is a “productive conversation” underway.

The ASIC chairman said that by embedding his staff in the major banks, the regulator’s supervisory teams would become “more knowledgeable and understanding of particular institutions” and have a more “real-time” assessment of emerging risks – both financial and non-financial.

“We will be better able to be honest and speak back the same language the financial institution uses so as to get effective change,” Mr Shipton said.

However, the ‘embedding’ idea does not come without its risks, he said – primarily among them the notion of ‘regulatory capture’, whereby ASIC staff could become complicit in the poor cultural or compliance practices of an institution.

“We have been very mindful of the experiences of overseas supervisors in this regard,” Mr Shipton said.

“There are a number of lessons to be learned and to be aware of such as the risk of regulatory capture, which I am very mindful of,” he said.

The Liberal MP questioned whether ASIC required extra funding to carry out an ‘embedded’ function.

“This could be core regulatory business and I think that ASIC already does have all the powers and authorities to enter into agreements and MOUs with businesses,” Mr Evans said.