Australian Securities and Investment Commission
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission has gained a reputation as one of the toughest regulatory agencies in the world of financial trading. It has strengthened regulation of the financial services industry in Australia, aided in recovery of funds for duped investors and also prosecuted errant operators within the industry.
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) is the agency tasked with the regulation of the financial markets in Australia and territories under Australian control. ASIC is head quartered in Sydney and is present each state and territory in Australia as well. ASIC regulates companies, entities and financial professional professionals working in the Australian financial system.
In other words, ASIC is the regulator for corporations, financial markets and financial services. The all-encompassing role ASIC plays in the Australian financial services industry sets it apart from other regulators around the world who carry out more limited functions.
ASIC was setup under the Australian Securities and Investment Commission Act of 2001, and also carries out most of its corporate regulation under the Corporations Act of 2001. ASIC is therefore mandated by the relevant laws to:
- Strive to continuously improve the performance of the Australian financial system and all entities operating within it.
- Ensure that investors and consumers within the Australian financial system participate actively in an informed manner.
- Administer the provisions of the ASIC act and also provide enforcement of the laws.
- Ensure that information about companies and other entities in the financial space is publicly available in a timely fashion.
Functions of ASIC
ASIC regulates companies, financial services entities, professionals working in the financial services industry as well as the financial markets. Financial services covered by ASIC regulation include all investment vehicles, deposit-taking businesses, insurance, superannuation and loans.
As a Consumer Credit Regulator
Acting as a regulator of the consumer credit industry in Australia, ASIC regulates individuals and corporate entities that work in the business of providing consumer credit. Therefore, banks, credit unions, finance companies, mortgage brokers and finance brokers are covered by this regulatory function. This regulatory function is covered by the National Consumer Credit Protection Act of 2009.
As a Markets Regulator
The ASIC also conducts regulation of the Australian financial markets and all entities that provide services within it. In other words, ASIC determines which financial derivative instruments and markets can operate within Australia, assess how effectively these financial markets comply with existing regulations and determine if these markets are fair, orderly and transparent. ASIC therefore has the power to license new instruments and markets for the purpose of investment or trading.
ASIC also regulates and supervises the domestic equity, derivatives and futures markets.
As a Financial Services Regulator
ASIC also functions as a regulator of financial services. Therefore, licensing and monitoring of financial services businesses is carried out by ASIC to ensure that they operate in a manner that is honest, efficient and fair. Regulated financial services include fund management businesses, stock trading, derivatives trading and insurance business.
How the ASIC Protects Traders
ASIC performs its consumer protection in several ways. This it does by ensuring that businesses operating in the financial markets, consumer credit and financial services sectors are licensed o do so. Typically, ASIC grants these entities an AFS license. By definition, the following entities must operate with an AFS license:
- Providers of financial products such as managed funds services or financial advisory services
- Market makers
- Operators of managed investment schemes
- Providers of trustee company management services
- Companies dealing in financial products i.e. brokers in various financial markets
Therefore, if a company claims to be offering insurance, financial brokerage, margin lending, derivatives trading or similar services, then such a company must have an AFS license and is required to state this clearly on its website. So the first level of protection for traders is to check to see if the company has an Australian Financial Services (AFS) license. This ensures that the entity the trader or investor wants to do business with is answerable to a regulatory body (in this case ASIC) and that there is a pathway to recourse if the trader or investor feels wronged in any way by an entity.
A second level of protection is the presence of a register.
ASIC maintains three registers. These are the registers for business names, professional registers and a register of companies and business which are regulated and licensed to offer services to consumers in the Australian financial system.These registers are available on the ASIC website and a trader, investor or consumer of financial products in Australia can perform a search of a company or financial professional on any of the registers to determine their status with ASIC. We show an example with Plus500, a Cypriot forex brokerage company that also operate in Australia.
After entering the search parameters (search by name or AFS license number), the trader can see the results of the search as shown below, which indicates that Plus500 is licensed and in good standing.
ASIC can also apply sanctions on companies, professionals and those in management of errant companies. This is another level of protection for consumers and is carried out in response to complaints made by consumers as well as problems detected during routine supervision of these companies by ASIC. We see an example shown here where ASIC applied a permanent ban to a financial adviser.
By making such information publicly available on its web portal, ASIC protects the investing public and ensures that they do not do business with banned professionals.
ASIC has also undertaken the business of recovery of funds where there has been embezzlement of investor funds, as well as criminal prosecution of those implicated in any such schemes. A case in point is that of David Paul Mudge, a former financial advisor with Windsor Gardens, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 27 months in prison for deceiving a client into signing documents that authorised Mr Mudge to withdraw money from the client’s accounts. ASIC was able to recover $99, 315 out of $216, 767 Mudge was ordered by the court to repay his duped client.