According to acting ASIC chairman Jeremy Cooper, Carole Ferguson “is a well
known financial industry participant” and her appointment to the corporate plod will “add strength
and value to our work and ties with industry.” But
isn’t Ferguson required to sever her ties with industry prior to accepting a
job with the Australian public service? How can she strengthen ASIC’s ties to
industry, unless she still has ties?

And isn’t it a violation of ASIC
policies on conflicts of interests for a person with ties to major financial
institutions to be involved in shaping ASIC’s approach to those same
institutions? Where does s125 of the ASIC Act fit in?
Or does ASIC
intend to waive its policies on conflicts of interests in order to give IFSA
influence over the policy making process? They would never do that, would

Who does Carole Ferguson work for? ASIC or IFSA? Is there a
difference? What role has Carole Ferguson played in lobbying ASIC on
IFSA’s behalf in the past? What was her role in getting the IFS ads
withdrawn? PDS fee disclosure? Web calculators? QFS 148?

Will her role
change now that she is within ASIC itself? What guarantees has ASIC obtained
that Ferguson does not have divided loyalties? Or is ASIC just planning to
rely on its conflict of interest policies to ensure that nothing untoward
happens? And what qualifies Ferguson for a senior compliance position?
Cooper admits that her experience relates exclusively to her work as a
private practitioner: her job until now has consisted largely of helping her corporate
clients disclose as little as possible about their lucrative little
earner gouging large fees out of legally compulsory super.

And what about
Jennifer O’Donnell? Why has Jeremy Cooper (ASIC’s real boss, even when dear
old Jeff Lucy isn’t touring Europe) decided to take away her responsibility for
wholesale and institutional? The speculation is that O’Donnell is now tasked
with going after SMSFs and other small players, while Ferguson gets to manage
ASIC’s relationship with the big boys.

We’ll see who turns out to be the
compliant one: IFSA, or ASIC. Cynics now fear the fox could rule the henhouse.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey