The corporate regulator has revealed the extent to which its investigations have been impacted by the COVID crisis, reporting an almost 40 per cent drop in notices issued to the entities it is tasked with monitoring.
Responding to questions on notice from the House economics committee, ASIC said it issued 1,557 notices to financial services industry participants in the six months to July 2020, compared with 2,511 notices in the previous six-month period.
“This represents a 38 per cent decline in the total number of notices issued in the COVID period compared to the immediate pre-COVID period,” ASIC said.
“In our Close and Continuous Monitoring Program there has been a decline in the onsite supervision and notice utilisation,” the regulator’s chair, James Shipton, told a previous hearing of the committee.”
The regulator said the most common notice types issued were requests to appear for examination, to produce books and records and for AFSLs to provide general information to ASIC.
ASIC noted that the number of notices issued to entities suspected of breaching the Corporations Act had peaked in August 2019 as the regulator worked through a backlog of case studies and referrals from the financial services royal commission.
“The peak – 683 notices issued in August 2019 – to trough – 226 notices issued in April 2020 – represents a 67 per cent decline in notices issued,” the regulator said.
However, ASIC added notice numbers had begun to increase again between May and July as its staff adapted to the changing working conditions demanded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The month of July 2020 saw just under 400 notices issued by ASIC.
“We’ve explored as many strategies as we can that are efficient and sensitive to the current economic environment such that we can continue to enforce the law, continue to investigate possible contraventions of the law, without overburdening the regulated communities but without stopping the office of influence from its operations in any significant way,” Mr Shipton told the committee.
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