The Treasury has released draft legislation for consultation which extends some of APRA’s powers to some non-ADI lenders. This is an important move, not least because we are seeing signs of non ADI lenders expanding their market footprint as regulators bear down on the larger mainstream players. Smaller non-ADI’s with assets of below $50m appear to be exempt.
The consultation on the draft Bill will close on Monday, 14 August 2017.
It covers the “conduct of a non-ADI lender relating to lending finance including the lending of money, with or without security or any other activities which either directly or indirectly result in the funding or originating of loans or other financing, which has the ability to cause or promote instability in the financial system”.
APRA will be able to apply different regulations to non-banks, a sub-section of these lenders, or to specific lenders. This does not include responsible lending responsibility which fall under ASIC. APRA will need to consult with ASIC when planning intervention (which highlights again the problem of role definition between APRA and ASIC).
Corporations with a stock of debt on their books, and a flow of debt through their books, which does not exceed $50,000,000, will not be registrable corporations for the purposes of the Financial Sector (Collection of Data) Act 2001 (FSCODA).
A new power will be provided to APRA to make rules with respect to lending finance by non-ADI lenders, for the purpose of addressing financial stability risks. APRA will also be provided a power to issue directions to a non-ADI lender, in the case that it has, or is likely to, contravene a rule. Appropriate directions powers and penalties will also be introduced for a non-ADI lender that does, or fails to do, an act that results in the contravention of a direction from APRA.
As a result of these amendments, corporations whose business activities in Australia include the provision of finance, or have been identified as a class of corporations specified in a determination made by APRA, will become registrable corporations for the purposes of FSCODA.
This will widen the class of registrable corporations under the FSCODA and will ensure that all non-ADI lenders, within specified parameters, are captured by these amendments.
Corporations which are not considered to be registrable corporations for the purposes of the FSCODA will include those corporations: whose sum of assets in Australia, consisting of debts due to the corporation resulting from transactions entered into in the course of the provision of finance by the corporation, does not exceed $50,000,000 (or any greater or lesser amount as prescribed by regulations); and whose sum of the values of the principal amounts outstanding on loans or other financing, as entered into in a financial year, does not exceed $50,000,000 (or any other amount as prescribed by regulations).
It is important to note that these powers do not equate to ongoing regulation by APRA of non-ADI lenders. APRA will not prudentially regulate and supervise non-ADI lenders as it does ADIs.
Under the Banking Act 1959 (Banking Act), a body corporate that wishes to carry on ‘banking business’ in Australia may only do so if APRA has granted an authority to the body corporate for the purpose of carrying on that business. Once authorised by APRA, the body corporate is an authorised deposit-taking institution (ADI) and is subject to APRA’s prudential requirements and ongoing supervision.
There are other entities who, like ADIs, provide finance for various purposes within Australia, but are not considered to be conducting ‘banking business’ as they do not take deposits. Given there are no depositors to protect, these entities are not required to be licensed as ADIs and prudentially regulated by APRA. These non-ADI lenders currently only have to report data to APRA in certain circumstances.
Under current law, APRA has significant powers with which to address the financial stability risks posed by the lending activities of ADIs. For example, concerns in recent years about residential mortgage lending have led APRA to take specific prudential actions to reinforce sound residential mortgage lending practices by ADIs.
APRA currently has no such ability with respect to non-ADI lenders. This gap potentially undermines APRA’s ability to promote financial stability, as lending practices that APRA has curtailed or prohibited for ADIs may continue to be pursued by non-ADI lenders.
To address this gap, APRA will be given new rule making powers which apply to non-ADI lenders. These new powers will allow APRA to make rules relating to the lending activities of non-ADI lenders, where APRA has identified material risks of instability in the Australian financial system.
These powers are narrow when compared to APRA’s powers over ADIs. This is an appropriate outcome, given there are no depositors to protect in non-ADI lenders. When exercising these powers, APRA will have to consider efficiency, competition, contestability and competitive neutrality consistent with section 8 of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority Act 1998 (APRA Act).
A separate but related issue is APRA’s ability to collect data from registrable corporations under Financial Sector (Collection of Data) Act 2001 (FSCODA). The current definition of registrable corporation in section 7 of the FSCODA has limited APRA’s ability to collect data, as corporations which engage in material lending activity are occasionally technically not required to register. This has inhibited the ability of APRA and the Council of Financial Regulators (CFR) to properly monitor the financial stability implications of the non-ADI lender sector.
APRA’s ability to collect data from non-ADI lenders will be improved by an alteration of the definition of registrable corporations in FSCODA. The new definition will seek to capture entities who engage in material lending activity, irrespective of whether it is their primary business.