I wrote several times in a negative way about the Australian financial industry, and the lack of enforcement: here, here, here and here.
I have insights in a few (rather dodgy, to put it mildly) companies listed on the Australian exchange, and am indeed shocked, I think that most of those companies would not have been allowed to list on Bursa Malaysia. Next to that, the financial statements of the smaller listed companies compare very badly to the statements of ACE listed companies.
It seems that the chairman of the ASIC (Australia's Securities Commission) seems to agree on that, according to this article on Sydney Morning Herald's website.
Australia is a "paradise" for white-collar criminals because of its soft punishment of corporate offences, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission chairman, Greg Medcraft, says.
Mr Medcraft said the only realistic response was harsher jail terms and bigger penalties for white-collar crime.
He also repeated calls for a national competency exam for financial advisers in the lead up to a crackdown on the industry and more funding for ASIC to investigate the finance sector, including a user-pays funding model.
Finance industry players were not "Christian soldiers", Mr Medcraft said on Tuesday, but were motivated by fear and greed.
"You have to lift the fear and suppress the greed," he said.
"This is a bit of a paradise, Australia, for white collar.
"The thing that scares white-collar criminals is going to jail and that's what scares them everywhere in the world."
"The penalties, particularly civil penalties, in Australia for white-collar offences are basically not strong enough, not tough enough. All you're doing is giving them a slap on the wrist [and] that is not deterring people."
In the past few years ASIC has come under fire over its handling of scandals at the financial planning arms of the Commonwealth Bank, Macquarie Group, and Storm Financial.
At recent Senate and parliamentary committee inquiries the corporate regulator was accused of being too slow to act against dodgy financial planners, of lacking transparency and being too trusting of big business.
Mr Medcraft admitted ASIC had made mistakes, but said its capacity to investigate and pursue corrupt financial advisers had been curtailed by a lack of resources.
He vowed to be more transparent about ASIC's enforcement actions and said the regulator would "not be captive to the big end of town".
"If we want to react faster, then having more resources to be able to do it is important," he said.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission plans to devote more resources to scrutinising and investigating the financial advisory industry while also forcing the sector to lift its game through better education, monitoring and reporting of breaches.