Documents obtained in a freedom of information (FOI) request have shown that the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC) has previously worked together with banks in the drafting of press releases.
The FOI request was made by The Australian which received a number of emails sent between Adrian Borchok, senior manager at ASIC, and other staff around an investigation of Macquarie Bank’s wealth arm Macquarie Equities in 2013.
The emails showed how ASIC would permit the big banks to provide input when drafting press releases relating to financial services misconduct. However, there was no sign that Macquarie had any input into the specific press release sent out around Borchok’s investigation, The Australian reported.
In an interview with ABC’s The Business on Wednesday (19 April), Anna Bligh, head of the Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA), said the public and the system needed to have confidence that regulators were independent from the banks.
“I think the reports today would alarm many people. I’m not aware of any particular instances of this but if there is evidence of it then I do think it will erode public confidence that regulators are sufficiently arm’s length from the institutions they regulate.”
Bligh noted though that there was a role for ASIC to ensure press releases were factually accurate at all times. However, “there is no role for banks to play in affecting the tone, the message, the content of any statement from the regulator,” she said.