Australia: ASIC Reveals 2023 Enforcement Priorities

By Matthew Watts and Rebecca Mangos

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has revealed its key enforcement priorities for 2023. This year, ASIC has signalled an expanded 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.

In its release, ASIC has emphasised that the regulator’s prioritisation of monitoring in these areas intends to “address misconduct, market integrity threats and consumer harms in sectors including financial services, retail and crypto-assets.”

The warning coincides with this month’s release of ASIC’s enforcement and regulatory report that highlights the major uptick in enforcement and regulatory actions taken by ASIC during the last half of 2022, including:

  • 173 criminal charges being laid and $76.3 million in civil penalties imposed;
  • heightened action against money laundering risks;
  • the issuance of 22 design and distribution obligations (DDO) stop orders to prevent consumers and investors being targeted by products inappropriate to their objectives, financial situation and needs; and
  • the regulator’s first action for greenwashing and consequential issuance of infringement notices for misleading sustainability-related statements.

Another priority of ASIC for the coming year is to increase its transparency to industry and streamline its interactions with the entities it regulates. For the first time, ASIC has released a regulatory developments timetable setting out projected timeframes for ASIC regulatory work, such as the publication of draft or final guidance, and the anticipated making of a legislative instrument. ASIC’s release of these key enforcement priorities and regulatory developments timetable gives us a clear indication of ASIC’s intention to continue its heightened level of surveillance and enforcement action into 2023.

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