Andrew Bragg

ASIC should focus more on becoming a feared regulator locking rogue directors and financial services executives up rather than thinking about media management, a key critic of the corporate regulator says.

In an interview with Professional Planner, Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg says he believes ASIC should spend more time taking people through the courts so that there is a clear consequence for those in breach of laws.

Bragg says the media – and not ASIC – that tends to get greater traction when it comes to ensuring whistleblower complaints and other issues get outcomes.

Exposes in the press, Bragg says, tended to draw people’s attention and sometimes embarrass regulatory authorities into moving on issues that he attributes to cultural issues within the corporate regulator.

“There’s a range of cultural and structural issues that the committee has canvassed over the past 18 months – they are very serious issues,” Bragg says.

“On reflection, the media has played a very important role in ensuring some things are done. It is not really the ideal situation. What we really want is a feared corporate regulator – one that is prepared to put people into the clink. I think until we have that we are going to have more of the same.”

He says he believes ASIC should be more prepared to take its chances in court using criminal provisions of the law as opposed to using civil penalties as much as it does, and it must also not be afraid of losing cases along the way.

“They’ve got to be prepared to use the criminal penalties they have in the statute book, that’s what they have got to do,” Bragg says.

“They overly rely on civil penalties and there is a succession of people who probably should be banned as company directors or financial services executives. There is a merry-go-round of people who should be banned or maybe jailed.

“A key part of being a feared cop is you have to be prepared to lose some and I don’t think they have been prepared to lose some so this has given rise to the bad culture we have.”