Senior members of the corporate regulator have refused to provide details about the possible existence of an informant within Macquarie Bank’s wealth management division.
ASIC representatives, including chair Greg Medcraft and deputy chair Peter Kell, last week offered scant detail to a Senate committee in response to how issues within Macquarie Equities Limited (MEL) came to their attention.
Macquarie’s banking and wealth division came under siege last year when MEL agreed to an enforceable undertaking (EU) with the regulator.
The EU followed a nine-month ASIC investigation that uncovered a number of recurring compliance deficiencies “by and in the supervision of MEL’s advisers”.
In response to a direct question on whether an informant tipped off ASIC about the “problems with Macquarie”, Kell was non-committal.
“We wouldn’t comment on whether we had an informant … as a general rule,” he told the committee conducting a Senate inquiry into the performance of ASIC.
Whether ASIC received a tip-off or not, ASIC was undertaking significant surveillance of MEL, he said.
“But commenting more generally, if we were to disclose in any of these cases the existence of an informant, it could potentially put those people at risk,” he said.
Committee member and Nationals Senator John Williams assured Kell the committee was not asking for any specific names of individuals.
“I think the fact that if there was an informant, you would appreciate this, that if we even accepted knowledge of an informant that would put that informant at risk,” Kell added.
Williams questioned Kell over the existence of a possible Macquarie informant after Medcraft revealed ASIC was contacted by a number of anonymous sources regarding issues within Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s dealer group, Commonwealth Financial Planning (Commonwealth FP).
Medcraft told the committee a number of informants or “ferrets” – as they referred themselves to – blew the whistle on the activities of a number of Commonwealth FP advisers between 2007 and 2008.
MEL is a division of Macquarie Group and is authorised under its Australian financial services licence to offer financial advice. It carries on a financial product advice business under Macquarie Private Wealth.