Australian Regulator Says Removal of Commissions Would End Conflicts of Interest


Australia’s corporate regulator, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), has thrown its weight behind the total removal of conflicted remuneration, including commissions, stating there can be no ambiguity in this area.

In a recent speech to the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors Annual Conference, the new Chair of ASIC, James Shipton, said the regulator would follow the path of the Australian parliament which banned ‘commissions and other conflicted payments’ in financial advice.
ASIC Chair, James Shipton

“This was a recognition that the best way to deal with some conflicts was not to manage or disclose them, but to remove them altogether,” Shipton said.

“This is an option that ASIC favours in relation to conflicted payments in advice. There can be no ambiguity in this area,” he added.

“I would strongly suggest that all financial firms keep this in mind when considering how to deal with conflicts of interest arising from remuneration structures,” Shipton said.

“…the best way to deal with some conflicts was not to manage or disclose them, but to remove them altogether”

His remarks were made as part of wider comments on the issue of conflict of interests in which he claimed “…it is clear to me that a number of institutions have not taken the management of conflicts of interest to heart.”

“This is verging on a systemic issue. Indeed, it is the source of much of the misconduct ASIC has been responding to and which is being highlighted by the Royal Commission hearings,” he added.

Shipton, who started in the role three months ago after working in regulatory and supervisory roles overseas, said he was surprised that many firms in the financial services sector had ignored the risks that conflicts of interests posed to customer outcomes and did not have a management system, culture or code to identify and resolve conflicts. He said there was also a reluctance to address conflicts, particularly those linked to remuneration, or to make good on any harm caused by conflicts of interest.

“A business culture that is blind to conflicts of interest is a business culture that does not have the best interests of its customer in mind. Moreover, it is one that is not observing the spirit as well as the letter of the law,” Shipton said.