ASIC deputy chairman Peter Kell has spoken at length of MPW’s failings. Photo: Angus MordantThe corporate regulator has declared that information about the failings of Macquarie Private Wealth (MPW), which has been ordered to write to all 160,000 clients it has ever had because they may have received shoddy advice, is not “directly relevant to a matter of public importance”.
Australian Securities and Investments Commission lawyer Violet Wong on Friday denied Fairfax Media access to every document produced under an enforceable undertaking Macquarie entered into last year after the regulator discovered serious problems within MPW.
Ms Wong’s decision appears to contradict the public remarks of ASIC deputy chairman Peter Kell, who just one week previously publicly unveiled the letter-writing campaign during an hour-long media call in which he spoke at length of MPW’s failings.
It comes amid a crisis of confidence in the financial advice industry, which Mr Kell said had long been an area of concern for ASIC and should “lift its game”.
In June, a Senate inquiry into the performance of ASIC and the CBA’s scandal-ridden advice divisions, Commonwealth Financial Planning and Financial Wisdom, raised concerns about the “efficacy” of the MPW enforceable undertaking and recommended ASIC put MPW under “intensive surveillance”.
MPW is a trading name of Macquarie Group subsidiary Macquarie Equities Ltd, whose director, Peter Maher, signed the January 29, 2013 enforceable undertaking acknowledging ASIC’s concerns and promising to take remedial action.
The undertaking refers to ASIC’s “summary of its concerns” about MPW and other documents and expert reports to be produced by MPW over the course of two years.
In a July 7 Freedom of Information request, Fairfax Media asked for all the documents mentioned in MPW’s enforceable undertaking.
Ms Wong on Friday said the documents contained information on MPW’s provision of financial advice, its record keeping, breach reporting and “risk governance and compliance culture”.
She said disclosure would unreasonably affect MPW’s business by disclosing its “internal processes and systems” and “areas of weakness within [Macquarie Equities Ltd]’s operation”.
A document setting out the findings of ASIC’s initial investigation was “less likely” to “inform debate on a matter of public importance because the information relates only to the commercial affairs of an entity”.
“I do not consider the information contained in Document 1 to be directly relevant to a matter of public importance.”
She said the same arguments applied to the other documents requested.
ASIC spokesman Matthew Abbott said: “FOI decisions are made by delegates of the commission based on their assessment of the request and how it relates to the internal ASIC information, the legislation and the public interest.”
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