The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is an independent Australian government body that acts as Australia's corporate regulator. ASIC's role is to enforce and regulate company and financial services laws to protect Australian consumers, investors and creditors. ASIC was established on 1 July 1998 following recommendations from the Wallis Inquiry. ASIC's authority and scope is determined by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act, 2001 (Cth).
ASIC maintains Australia’s company and business name registers, which can be searched online. The types of organisations that can be searched online include companies, registered bodies, foreign companies, associations, managed investment schemes and non-registered entities. The information that is available includes current and/or historical information about the organisation, including past addresses, previous directors, and former names, as well as the organisation’s unique identification number (ABN, ACN, ARBN, ARSN), type of company or organisation (eg., proprietary company, limited by shares), date it was registered, the next review date, location of registered office (town or suburb only), and any professional licences or registrations (e.g. an Australian financial services licence or credit licence).
ASIC was originally formed as the Australian Securities Commission (ASC), established on 1 January 1991 by the (then) ASC Act 1989. The purpose of ASC was to unify corporate regulators around Australia by replacing the National Companies and Securities Commission and the Corporate Affairs offices of the states and territories.
The corporate regulator became the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) on 1 July 1998, when it also became responsible for consumer protection in superannuation, insurance and deposit taking. It has since gained further responsibilities: in 2002 for credit, the Australian Stock Exchange in 2009, and Chi-X in 2011.
In 2012, ASIC called for powers to use data which had been intercepted by other intelligence agencies.
In recent times ASIC has become the subject of criticism by consumers, consumer advocates and public officials over its inaction and inefficiencies in protecting consumers from large financial institutions.
In 2015-2016 ASIC was subject to a class action claim of negligence by persons affected by the Storm Financial collapse for an alleged failure to take action, amounting to malfeasance. However, Justice Gleeson of the Federal Court of Australia struck out the statement of claim of the plaintiffs as being unarguable.
ASIC has not acted against the Financial Ombudsman Service (Australia) (FOS) despite the organisation being exposed as having generated misleading file notes and then attempting to offer them in the discovery phase in a Victorian Supreme Court case. FOS were caught out and exposed by a consumer and ASIC has not acted against FOS.
ASIC did commence proceedings against the largest four banks in Australia in 2016 for rigging of Australian benchmark interest rates. However criticism has been leveled against the regulator for failing to take action for over five years. Questions remain about how this will affect consumer civil causes of action against banks involved, given that the statute of limitations tends to be six years in Australia.
ASIC has recently become subject of heavy criticism in the debate about whether a Royal Commission into banking and financial services is required.
ASIC's areas of responsibility include:
ASIC's consumer website www.moneysmart.gov.au was launched on 15 March 2011. MoneySmart replaced ASIC's two previous consumer websites, FIDO and Understanding Money. MoneySmart aims to help people make good financial decisions by providing free, independent and unbiased information, tools and resources.