The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) is a key regulatory body that oversees Australia’s corporate sector, financial markets, and financial services organizations. ASIC plays a critical role in maintaining the integrity and public trust in Australia’s financial system. This in-depth article will provide an overview of ASIC, its history, powers, responsibilities, and key initiatives.


The Australian Securities & Investments Commission is the Australian government body that enforces laws relating to companies, markets, financial services, and consumer credit. ASIC is an independent Commonwealth entity that was established in 1989 by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 1989 and is accountable to the Australian Parliament.

Some of ASIC’s key responsibilities include:

  • Registering companies and managed investment schemes
  • Licensing financial services providers
  • Monitoring and promoting market integrity and fairness
  • Regulating consumer credit under the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009
  • Regulating financial reporting
  • Performing market surveillance
  • Enforcing laws relating to financial services, corporations, fair trading, and consumer credit

Over the years, ASIC has played a pivotal role in shaping Australia’s regulatory framework. It helps promote investor, credit consumer and financial consumer trust and confidence in the financial system.

This article will provide a comprehensive overview of ASIC’s powers, responsibilities, objectives, organisational structure, enforcement actions, achievements, as well as some of the challenges it faces.

History of ASIC

The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) was formed in 1989 by the merger of the National Companies and Securities Commission (NCSC) and the Corporate Affairs offices of the states and territories. This merger was in response to the recommendations of the national companies and securities legislation review committee, chaired by Sir Rogers.

The NCSC itself was established in 1981 and operated under the National Companies and Securities Commission Act 1979. It took over responsibility for corporate regulation from the state Corporate Affairs offices.

Some key events and milestones in ASIC’s history include:

  • 1989 – ASIC formed under ASIC Act 1989 with expanded powers
  • 1991 – ASS assumed responsibility for corporate regulation from the states
  • 1998 – ASIC given expanded powers and responsibilities
  • 2001 – Financial Services Reform Act 2001 gave ASIC licensing and conduct responsibilities
  • 2004 – CLERP 9 expanded ASIC’s disciplinary powers
  • 2009 – National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 expands ASIC’s remit

Over the past 30+ years, ASIC has grown significantly in size, powers and regulatory scope. It now regulates over 2.5 million companies and licensees and oversees financial markets with a capitalization of over $2 trillion.

Powers and Responsibilities of ASIC

ASIC has significant powers and responsibilities for Australia’s corporate landscape and financial system. Its key powers and responsibilities include:

Registering Companies

  • Registering companies under the Corporations Act 2001 – This includes public and private companies, foreign companies operating in Australia, registered schemes, and other bodies.

Licensing Financial Services Providers

  • Licensing financial services providers like financial advisors, superannuation trustees, auditors, liquidators.
  • Setting training and competency standards for licensees.

Market Integrity

  • Monitoring Australia’s financial markets and exchanges.
  • Investigating market manipulation and insider trading.
  • Overseeing trading on Australia’s licensed equity, derivatives and future markets.

Consumer Protection

  • Protecting consumers from misleading conduct by banks, insurers, financial service providers.
  • Administering the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009.
  • Banning harmful financial products and services, defective disclosure documents.

Corporate Governance

  • Promoting good corporate governance principles.
  • Administering laws relating to directors and officers, acting in companies’ best interests.

Financial Reporting

  • Overseeing corporate financial reporting, accounting policies and disclosures.
  • Taking enforcement action over false or misleading statements.

Insolvency Practitioners

  • Registering and regulating insolvency practitioners like liquidators.
  • Investigating misconduct and banning practitioners.

In summary, ASIC has extremely broad powers and responsibilities spanning corporate governance, financial services licensing, markets supervision, consumer protection and more. It plays a pivotal role in instilling confidence in Australia’s financial landscape.

Organisational Structure of ASIC

ASIC has a Commission comprising of up to 8 ASIC members appointed by Australia’s Governor-General. The Commission is led by a Chairperson and 2 Deputy Chairpersons.

Operationally, ASIC is divided into stakeholder teams, strategy teams and enabling teams.

Some of ASIC’s key teams include:

  • Financial Services and Wealth Group – Oversees financial advice, superannuation, insurance, credit.
  • Markets Group – Responsible for market infrastructure and intermediaries, market and participant supervision.
  • Corporations Group – Deals with corporate governance, accounting, reporting and audits.
  • Consumers, Advisers and Education Group – Focuses on community outreach, financial capability and indigenous outreach.
  • Assessment and Intelligence Group – Provides operational support through data analytics, surveillance, enforcement support.
  • Chief Legal Office – Provides legal services, litigation, prosecution and proceedings.
  • Chief Financial Officer – Oversees finance, procurement and business services.

ASIC has offices in each state and territory capital as well as regional centers. It employs around 1,700 staff across Australia. The majority of staff are located at the ASIC’s head office in Sydney.

Key Powers and Tools of ASIC

To effectively carry out its regulatory oversight, ASIC has been conferred various powers and tools including:

Investigative Powers

  • Compelling the production of documents, accounts, mobile data through notices.
  • Entering and searching premises with warrants.
  • Summoning people for examination under oath.

Banning Powers

  • Banning company directors for up to 5 years for breaching duties or insolvent trading.
  • Banning harmful financial products for up to 18 months.
  • Banning fraudulent promoters from fund-raising etc.


  • Seeking civil pecuniary penalties, compensation orders from courts.
  • Issuing infringement notices forminor breaches.
  • Pursuing criminal charges and penalties.

Intervention Powers

  • Suspending or canceling Australian financial service licenses.
  • Issuing orders to remedy contraventions, protect consumers.
  • Appointing external administrator to companies.

Corporations Act

  • ASIC administers the Corporations Act 2001 – Australia’s central legislation governing companies and financial products/services.

This extensive suite of powers enables ASIC to effectively carry out its regulatory mandate and take strong action against misconduct.

Key Achievements of ASIC

During its 30+ year history, ASIC has notched several key achievements in shaping Australia’s corporate and financial services regulatory regime. Some include:

  • Raised standards – Lifted standards in areas like financial advice, credit, auditing through new laws, standards, and stronger enforcement.
  • Corporate governance – Improved corporate transparency, accountability and shareholder rights protections.
  • Consumer remediation – Secured over $10 billion in remediation for consumers from enforcement actions.
  • Innovation facilitation – Supported financial innovation through regulatory guidance eg: for equity crowdfunding, crypto-assets.
  • Investor and consumer education – Expanded community outreach and education through publications, website tools, campaigns.
  • Enforcement – Taken impactful enforcement actions against major banks, large listed companies, auditors and other regulated entities over misconduct.
  • International leadership – Played a leading role in international forums like IOSCO to shape regulatory best practices.

ASIC’s track record demonstrates its effectiveness as a credible conduct regulator that adapts to evolving market challenges. It has raised standards across many areas of Australia’s financial system.

Significant ASIC Enforcement Actions

ASIC has undertaken numerous high-profile enforcement actions against large companies for serious compliance breaches. Some noteworthy actions include:

  • 2018 – Commonwealth Bank pays $700 million penalty for breaching anti-money laundering laws.
  • 2020 – Westpac pays $1.3 billion penalty for breaching anti-money laundering laws.
  • 2021 – AMP pays $5.2 million for failing to disclose fees charged.
  • 2022 – Allianz pays $10 million for misleading customers over travel insurance.
  • 2022 – ANZ pays $95 million for inappropriate financial advice to over 51,000 customers.

These major actions against prominent institutions underscore ASIC’s powers and willingness to pursue penalties against even large entities for misconduct. The sizable fines show the real costs of non-compliance.

ASIC’s Proactive Regulation Approach

In recent years, ASIC has aimed to complement its strong enforcement actions with more proactive, cooperative regulation. This involves:

  • Greater industry engagement and consultation on proposed regulatory reforms.
  • Supporting businesses seeking to comply through more guidance and communication.
  • Actively monitoring emerging developments and risks, rather than just reacting.
  • More remediation and fewer court battles.
  • Encouraging internal audits and breach reporting.
  • Using more “soft power” levers like surveillance, supervision and moral suasion.

This forward-looking, collaborative approach aims to foster greater trust and accountability across the sectors ASIC oversees.

ASIC’s Focus Areas

Based on major developments, misconduct trends and identified risks, ASIC currently focuses its regulatory attention and priorities on areas like:

Consumer Protection

  • Protecting vulnerable consumers – elderly, Indigenous, non-English speakers.
  • Mis-selling of financial products like junk insurance.
  • Higher standards in credit provision.

Financial Advice

  • Raising adviser competency with exam requirements.
  • Ensuring quality financial advice that considers consumers’ whole situation.

Market Integrity

  • Use of technology to monitor and analyze trading for market manipulation.
  • Emerging risks from more high frequency, algorithmic trading.

Fintech and Crypto

  • Facilitating responsible innovation in areas like crowdfunding, crypto-assets.
  • Ensuring investor protection safeguards are in place.

Corporate Accountability

  • Strengthening auditor independence and performance.
  • Enhancing transparency through better corporate disclosures.

ASIC regularly updates its priorities based on new developments, risks and stakeholder feedback. Its forward-looking approach enables it to stay agile amidst a dynamic, fast-changing business environment.

Challenges Faced by ASIC

Despite its significant powers and achievements, ASIC also faces some key challenges in carrying out its mandate effectively including:

Regulatory Perimeter

  • Regulatory gaps or arbitrage due to entities or activities falling outside ASIC’s remit.
  • Calls for ASIC to regulate some newer areas like crypto trading platforms.

Funding Constraints

  • Carrying out supervision, enforcement with limited resources and budget.
  • Calls for ASIC to receive more stable government funding like a levy.

Enforcement Difficulties

  • High evidentiary burdens to prove criminal charges for corporate offences.
  • Costly, lengthy court proceedings placing strain on ASIC.

Regulatory Overreach Risks

  • Maintaining business competitiveness while raising regulatory standards.
  • Ensuring regulatory burden is proportionate and cost-effective.

ASIC must continually balance these tensions and trade-offs between enforcing strong standards and facilitating business dynamism. Its cooperative approach aims to tackle these challenges more effectively.


In summary, the Australian Securities & Investments Commission plays an indispensable role in maintaining trust and integrity in Australia’s financial landscape. Over 30+ years, it has evolved into a more proactive regulator that uses its sizable powers to raise industry standards, facilitate innovation and deliver tangible investor protection outcomes. Looking ahead, ASIC is focused on addressing key risks, leveraging technology and collaborating closely with businesses to foster a dynamic, ethical financial sector that promotes Australia’s global competitiveness and prosperity.