June 15, 2020 / 10:08 AM / 23 days ago

Australian watchdog imposes licensing conditions on SocGen securities

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Societe Generale’s Australian securities business faces restrictions on new customers if it does not comply with new licensing conditions related to client money laws, Australia’s corporate regulator said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Societe Generale is seen on the firm's headquarters in the financial and business district of La Defense near Paris, France, Feb. 4, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) imposed the new conditions on the financial services licence of the Societe Generale business after charging it with criminal offences in March over alleged failure to separate clients’ money in authorised bank accounts.

If Societe Generale Securities Australia does not comply with the new conditions, the unit would need to refrain from charging brokerage fees for futures transactions involving client money and would have to stop taking on new customers if it involved receipt of client money, the watchdog said on Monday.

ASIC said the Australian business must appoint an independent expert to assess its processes, identify deficiencies and plan remedial action, with attestations from a qualified senior executive and board member confirming adoption and implementation of any recommended remedial action.

The regulator did not say when the French investment bank had to meet the conditions and therefore when the restrictions might apply.

In a statement, Societe Generale Securities Australia Pty Ltd said it had agreed to the new conditions.

However, a SocGen spokesman based in Hong Kong said the business was operating normally.

“Our operations in Australia are running as usual and there is no impact on Societe Generale’s operations or on the level of service to its clients,” he said.

During 2017 and 2018, the securities unit self-reported that it had deposited client money in unauthorised bank accounts between December 2014 and September 2018, which the regulator at the time described as “serious” and at risk of “undermining investor confidence”.

The regulations require client money to be deposited with an Australian bank or in an account prescribed under specific client money laws. This is aimed at limiting use of client funds and the circumstances in which they can be withdrawn.

Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney and Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and David Goodman

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