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Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services – Opening statement – 15 July 2020

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Opening statement by ASIC Chair, James Shipton at the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services, Oversight of ASIC, the Takeovers Panel and the Corporations Legislation No.1 of the 46th Parliament, public hearing, Wednesday 15 July 2020, Parliament House, Canberra.

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Good morning Chair and Committee members.

Representing ASIC today are: Deputy Chairs Dan Crennan and Karen Chester; Commissioners Cathie Armour, Danielle Press and Sean Hughes; and Executive Director, Assessment and Intelligence, Warren Day.

As COVID-19 continues to challenge the nation, ASIC is working to ensure our financial services industry operates in a manner that is not only resilient but also fair, strong and efficient for all Australians.

ASIC’s work is vital to ensuring confidence is maintained in our financial system.

To do this we are assessing and prioritising key vulnerabilities, and tackling challenges as they develop across our regulated sectors.

Where there is significant risk of consumer harm, ASIC will investigate enforce and prosecute breaches of the law.

We recognise households are more vulnerable than ever and are taking an extremely precautionary approach to their finances and financial decisions. 

By ensuring the financial system remains fair, strong and efficient for all Australians, ASIC is performing an important economic role.

To this end, ASIC’s five interim strategic priorities are:

These five priorities will help maintain the bedrock of confidence in our economic system.

We are working towards greater fairness, particularly by working with banks, insurance companies and managed investment scheme operators in relation to the treatment of customers.

We are making the system strong by protecting consumers from harm and bad behaviour, and enhancing consumer and financial information on our websites.

We are also making the system more efficient through our crucial capital market initiatives and relief efforts and assisting Australian business to get the capital they need to support the economy.

ASIC is acting swiftly to protect consumers – that’s real people – from harm during this time of heightened vulnerability.

Even when things are going well, many people find dealing with money and finances to be a stressful experience.

We acknowledge these challenges and the hardships that individuals and businesses are facing during prolonged periods of shutdown.

To assist Australians and businesses make well-informed decisions, we have increased our financial messaging:

Difficult times, such as now, bring out the best in Australians. Unfortunately, they can also bring out the worst in a small number of people.

This is evident from the 20% year-on-year increase in reports of misconduct received by ASIC since April.

We have also seen a rise in the number of scam reports from Australian consumers. 

These scams can be loosely grouped into three categories:

As financial scams can take many forms, we have enhanced our messaging on our websites.

Maintaining the fairness, strength and efficiency of Australia’s equity and capital markets has been, and will continue to be, vital for Australia’s economy.

To achieve this, we have:

These efforts have assisted Australia’s capital markets to remain strong and efficient, and has resulted in listed companies raising nearly $31 billion in 144 transactions since the pandemic began. This figure is only outdone by the United States, that is a significantly larger economy and capital market to ours.

Our actions supporting Australia’s capital markets has enabled them to step-up and support Australian companies, and the economy as a whole, when it is most needed.

In closing, ASIC will continue to play its important role in ensuring that the financial infrastructure and system – the bedrock of our economy – remains fair, strong and efficient so that it can support Australians and Australian businesses in this time of economic strain.

We look forward to taking your questions.

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Regulator Information

Abbreviation: ASIC
Jurisdiction: Australia

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