The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) said it would focus on further enforcement action to protect Australian consumers and small businesses, highlighting the prevalence of scams, digitally-enabled misconduct, and predatory lending practices.
Releasing the corporate plan, ASIC chair Joe Longo said it follows a “year of progress against the organisation’s strategic priorities and strong enforcement outcomes in 2022–23”.
“ASIC has made strong progress since we released our strategic priorities last year, and we still have more work to do,” Mr Longo said.
“We are responding to key trends and emerging issues in the regulatory landscape, where there are major shifts across sustainable finance, the digital and data economy, and an ageing population.”
On the advice front, the regulator said its priorities for the coming year are around facilitating adviser registration and reviewing SMSF establishment advice compliance.
“We will also continue to engage with licensees and advisers to ensure they understand and comply with their new registration obligations,” the corporate plan said, adding that it will “review advice in relation to the establishment of SMSFs and take action, where appropriate”.
It also outlined a focus on reducing harm caused by poor performance and harmful distribution of choice products, including completing its review of superannuation trustees’ distribution practises in relation to choice superannuation products, and the role of financial advisers and their licensees in the distribution of underperforming choice products.
“Having regard to Australia’s ageing population, we will focus on conduct that affects retirement outcomes. We will take strong action against misleading conduct and poor governance in the superannuation sector, especially where misconduct erodes members’ balances,” Mr Longo said.
He added: “We are also closely monitoring the development and use of artificial intelligence and what this means for the businesses and markets we regulate and exploring potential uses of this and other technologies within ASIC.
“ASIC’s new structure – which came into effect in July this year – strengthens our capacity to respond to emerging threats and challenges. A key priority for me is to ensure the structure better supports the prioritisation of enforcement and regulatory issues, quicker decision making, and operational flexibility.”
ASIC also touted its enforcement record, stating that over the three years to 30 June 2023, it commenced over 125 criminal actions that resulted in 92 criminal convictions and 39 custodial sentences.
The regulator also commenced almost 200 civil actions that resulted in over 130 successful civil claims, while there were in excess of $500 million in criminal and civil penalties imposed by the courts.
“Protecting consumers and small businesses from misconduct and taking decisive action against those who break the law is central to ASIC’s work to maintain confidence in Australia’s markets and support the economy,” Mr Longo said.