ASIC has warned businesses it will be targeting greenwashing, predatory lending and misleading insurance pricing promises this year, as part of a continuing focus on protecting consumers from financial harm.
The warning coincides with the release of its latest enforcement and regulatory report, highlighting actions taken during the last three months of 2022, and outlining the full list of enforcement priorities for the year ahead (REP 757).
ASIC Deputy Chair Sarah Court said the actions taken during the final quarter of 2022 reflect ASIC’s continuing strategic priorities and enforcement priorities.
‘In the final three months of last year we commenced a number of significant enforcement and regulatory actions to address misconduct, market integrity threats and consumer harms in sectors including financial services, retail and crypto-assets,’ Ms Court said.
‘This includes corporate governance and directors’ duties, product design and distribution, and misleading statements involving sustainable finance practices.’
Enforcement priorities for 2023
Throughout 2023, ASIC will have a strong focus on enforcement activity targeting sustainable finance practices and disclosure of climate risks, financial scams, cyber and operational resilience, and investor harms involving crypto-assets.
‘We take our role to protect consumers and investors seriously and won’t hesitate to take action to protect consumers where we identify poor conduct.’
‘We will also remain focused on helping industry to meet their legal obligations including by providing simple, effective and easy-to-access guidance.’
Key outcomes from the quarter
Between July and December 2022, 173 criminal charges were laid, $76.3 million in civil penalties were imposed by the courts and 62 investigations were commenced with another 103 investigations ongoing. This brings the total for 2022 (calendar year) to 312 criminal charges being laid and $222.1 million in civil penalties imposed by the courts.
ASIC took action against former directors of Star Entertainment Group Limited for alleged breaches of their director and officer duties involving money laundering risks.
ASIC has issued 22 design and distribution obligations (DDO) stop orders, 14 of which were issued in the last quarter, to prevent consumers and investors being targeted by products inappropriate to their objectives, financial situation and needs.
We also took our first action for greenwashing in October and issued infringement notices to three entities in the reporting period for misleading sustainability-related statements.
Regulatory developments timetable
For the first time, ASIC has published a regulatory developments timetable to be more transparent. The timetable will help industry to better anticipate when ASIC will issue draft or final guidance, or the making of a legislative instrument.
‘Our regulatory developments timetable is just one of many initiatives to streamline our interactions with the entities we regulate.’