While whistles are needed, Cormann won't commit
With consumer confidence in financial advice in a pretty rough state, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) says its new Office of the Whistleblower will allow insiders to fight back.
The regulator says it will establish the office to improve the way it deals with whistleblowers, as part of its response to the 61 recommendations made by the Senate Economics Committee inquiry.
ASIC will also revamp its website for better “communications and enhanced transparency”.
It has also increased its monitoring of enforceable undertakings including the reporting of the outcomes, in addition to the recently-announced public register of financial advisers.
Further details on the register are expected in coming days.
While there are limited details on the Office of the Whistleblower at this point, the move should be welcomed by disgruntled employees at banks who currently feel they have no safe outlet.
However, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has rejected the recommendation to establish a Royal Commission into the Commonwealth Bank, which was suggested after a Senate inquiry found evidence of fraud, and the industry’s encouragement of some of those responsible millions of dollars of customers’ money.
The Abbott Government has stated that it is happy with the bank’s own compensation scheme – which will be run by CBA without zero input from ASIC.
Fairfax media finance journalist Adele Ferguson - who has conducted months of investigation into the Australian financial advice scene – described the lack of action as a whitewash.
“Instead of accepting a bipartisan recommendation from the Senate inquiry to launch a royal commission into Commonwealth Bank to investigate fraud, forgery and allegations of a cover-up inside CBA's financial planning division, the government believes a compensation scheme is enough – a scheme that fails to write to all clients, is run by the bank, and has no input from ASIC,” she wrote this week.
“As a result of the whitewash of the Senate recommendations late last week, there will be no public outings of the many rogue planners or their managers who are still employed in the industry. A national register that will be set up next year is being heralded as the panacea for reform. This is a start but it is a drop in the ocean, given the reform the sector really needs.”