Lack of technology poses ‘existential risk’ to ASIC

Those under the eye of Australia’s corporate watchdog often hide potential evidence by flooding the regulator with irrelevant material, which its chair says poses an “existential risk”.

Jun 14, 2024, updated Jun 14, 2024
Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) Chair Joseph Longo. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING

Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) Chair Joseph Longo. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission did not have the technology it required to keep pace with this explosion of digital information that needs to be interrogated, representatives told a Senate inquiry.

“If there’s one risk facing ASIC as an agency – and I would characterise it as an existential risk – it’s an underinvestment in our data capability and our technology debt,” ASIC chair Joseph Longo said.

If the watchdog’s technology investment received a boost, it could run matters more efficiently and allow them to take on more cases, deputy chair Sarah Court said.

“The more we invest in our enforcement capability, the more matters we can take to court, and the more penalties will be imposed by the courts,” she said.

ASIC has played a significant role in protecting Australian consumers and has helped impose penalties in a variety of cases, Senator Deborah O’Neill noted.

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For example, in October 2023, the commission banned former PwC partner Peter-John Collins from providing financial services for eight years after it was revealed he had leaked confidential government information to boost private sector business for the now-embattled firm.

“Australians deserve able to use the financial services that are available to them with confidence,” Senator O’Neill said.

“And unless ASIC is feared in some ways by those who would do harm, then it’s not functioning properly.”

ASIC also did a lot of work involving criminals and often referred matters to the Director of Public Prosecutions, which meant the government must address law enforcement funding as well, Mr Longo said.

If the commission were to send more referrals to the DPP without resourcing them properly, cases would still face bottlenecks – this time at a different part of the pipeline.

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