March 27, 2019 / 12:39 AM / 3 months ago

Australian regulator says company resistance suggests 'things to hide'

SYDNEY, March 27 (Reuters) - Australia’s corporate regulator said on Wednesday it was receiving “push-back” from some companies after it took a more litigious approach but that this would not deter it from pursuing civil and criminal lawsuits over suspected wrongdoing.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) was criticised by a finance sector inquiry in 2018 for being too soft on big banks. ASIC has since said it will be more aggressive in seeking legal redress for corporate wrongdoing.

“Push-back from this clear mandate concerns me,” ASIC Chairman James Shipton told a conference in Sydney.

“It suggests there are still things to hide,” he added, without identifying any companies.

The quasi-judicial independent inquiry accused Australia’s financial firms of taking an overly legalistic approach to regulation, relying on technical interpretations of rules to avoid prosecution.

Shipton said there were “still pockets of legal resistance”.

“There are still technical arguments put to us when we have been very clear for a very long time that we want the concept of fairness ... to be the primary consideration,” Shipton said.

“The simple solution is don’t break the law.”

The inquiry found Australia’s big banks and wealth managers pursued profit ahead of their customers’ interests, charged fees without providing services and saw regulatory compliance as a cost rather than a guide to proper conduct. (Reporting by Paulina Duran; Editing by Byron Kaye and Stephen Coates)

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