Corporate regulator ASIC has released some new figures on its small-business compliance activity in the second half of last year, revealing it had 151 small-business criminal matters ongoing at the start of 2019.
For the year ahead, ASIC says it will be casting a keen eye over unfair contract terms for small businesses, credit lenders who aren’t lodging compliance certificates and illegal phoenix activity.
The regulator also reiterated its intended focus on misconduct in initial coin offerings and cryptocurrency markets.
The regulator has had some recent wins, securing jail time for multiple small-business owners following phoenixing investigations in the second half of 2018.
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Overall, there were 168 criminal actions and 43 administrative matters pursued against small businesses or related persons between July 1 and December 31, 2018.
A total of 17 businesses were pursued with criminal charges for registration and licensing issues over that period, bringing the total number of enforcement outcomes to 228 for the period.
As of January 1, 2019, ASIC had 143 criminal cases underway against persons or companies, and eight relating to misconduct in registration and licensing.
Deputy chair Daniel Crennan said in the post-banking royal commission environment ASIC wants to look beyond solely measuring criminal and civil enforcement outcomes.
“What we want to achieve is a substantial improvement in culture and conduct — the willingness to act efficiently, honestly and fairly,” he said in the report.
There’s a lot of pressure at the moment on the corporate regulator to effectively police financial services misconduct after it was dragged over the coals during the banking royal commission.
In the small-business space, small business ombudsman Kate Carnell has previously said she’ll be keeping a close eye on whether ASIC proves an effective cop on the beat for the revised banking code of conduct.