ASIC's not out to protect the little guy

Allan Asher writes: Re. "ASIC's problems start at the top" (Friday). A good story about ASIC but pretty shallow at the same time. I reckon the deeper story is about a policy trend which has been around for 15 years or so. In many regulatory bodies in OECD economies with responsibility for tax, utilities, competition, environmental law enforcement, there has been a policy fashion for "risk based" regulation which is built on the hubristic concept that regulators really know what goes on in regulated enterprises. Errors have been compounded by a related trend in which regulators imagine themselves to have "adult" relationships with "clients" rather than adversarial relationships. Guess what? They get done over every time. As Deputy Chair of the ACCC I was responsible for enforcement and the early part of energy market regulation.  One consequence of our tough regulatory approach was to lose jurisdiction of financial services and to see owners of energy assets gut the regulatory scheme. These are lessons to remember.