ASIC ‘EM, BOY

Australia’s corporate regulator ASIC has lashed some of Australia’s biggest banks, reporting that financial planners at five institutions favoured in-house products and at times hawked more expensive plans to customers as a result.

The review probed ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, Westpac and AMP, and found that one in 10 were left financially worse off as a result of the advice they received.

The peak body for the wealth-management industry the Financial Services Council hit back at the regulator, accusing ASIC of relying on “its own interpretation of how the best interest duty should be applied”.

At the heart of yesterday’s ASIC report are concerns about so-called “vertically integrated firms”, where banks both provide financial advice and own companies that offer financial products. Vertical integration was not addressed in the 2013 Future of Financial Advice laws, and Nationals Senator John Williams said it may be time that was addressed.

ASIC’s report also found that more than two-thirds of customers ended up with in-house products despite the fact 79% of the approved products listed by the firms were external.

THE NAME’S LOWY. FRANK LOWY

Former Football Federation Australia (FFA) chair Frank Lowy allegedly financed a secret investigation into Qatar after the country out-bid Australia to win hosting rights for the 2022 football World Cup.

Australia’s bid for the 2018 and 2022 competitions cost $50 million and ultimately came up short, but not before being tainted by reports of gift-giving to FIFA executives and lavish spending on overseas consultants. The FFA defended the gifts at the time by saying such symbolic gestures were common in business and football.

Now, a new book by former FFA bid executive Bonita Mersiades — referenced in today’s Age — alleges Lowy launched a private investigation into Qatar that enlisted the aid of a former CIA officer. The Age reports that none other than Christopher Steele had also been prepared to co-operate with the sleuthing and that Lowy had met with former FIFA head Sepp Blatter and News Corp Executive chairman Rupert Murdoch in an effort to overturn Qatar’s bid.

Alas, much like the quest to find a consistent goal scorer aside from Tim Cahill, nothing came of the endeavour. Lowy’s probe didn’t turn up any evidence of Qatari corruption.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

“I’ve just signed your death warrant,” County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina told former US gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar as she sentenced him to a prison term of 40 to 175 years.

Nassar has been accused of abusing scores of women while a doctor, and has already been jailed on child pornography charges. One of the sport’s most high-profile athletes Simone Biles added her name to the list of accusers earlier this month.

While Nassar pleaded guilty to the sexual assault charges in November, Aquilina said a letter he wrote to her claiming he was “manipulated” into entering the plea indicated he was not remorseful for his actions.

“I wouldn’t send my dogs to you, sir,” she said.

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Sydney: Australia’s full team for the Winter Olympics will be announced.

Sydney: The NSW government goes to court to try to stop a 24-hour train strike set for Monday, and endorsed by rail strike which Rail, Tram and Bus Union staff yesterday. An overtime work ban by workers is expected to cause delays on Sydney trains today.

Canberra: The 2018 Australian of the Year award will be conferred.

THE COMMENTARIAT

We examined Julian Assange, and he badly needs care – but he can’t get it — Sondra S Crosby, Brock Chisholmand, and Sean Love (The Guardian): “Even for those who will see him, their capacity to provide care is limited. At the embassy, there are none of the diagnostic tests, treatments and procedures that we have concluded he needs urgently.”

How about showing us the TPP deal we’re about to sign? — Peter Martin (Sydney Morning Herald): “The Productivity Commission wants to do the numbers itself, performing a proper cost-benefit analysis. Under Labor it would, for all future agreements. It’s hard to think of a good reason why it shouldn’t do it now.”

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY

The anti-democratic rot at the heart of the TPP — Guy Rundle: “Labor, split between globalists and nationalists/populists, will have a hell of a time. But Bill Shorten should take the latter route, and urge caution, and reserve the right to renegotiate our participation, based on the jewel in the crown: the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. The US-inclusive TPP was aimed squarely at the PBS, which US Big Pharma loathes — because it is the most successful drug price control scheme in the world.”

Crikey cheat sheet: where do our pollies stand on Australia Day? — Chris Woods: “Wherever you land on Australia Day AKA Invasion Day AKA Survival Day, the push to change our national date (which, for those playing at home, goes back even further than the public holiday) to something less overtly offensive to First Nations people has now become strong enough to enter the political sphere. Let’s see how our politicians stack up.”

Wake up, lil Sufi, wake up — Tips and Rumours: “It’s also worth remembering Sufi’s time as the Liberal candidate for Fremantle in the 2016 federal election. Any chance he may have had of cashing in on Labor’s stumbles — they dumped original candidate Chris Brown when it was revealed Brown had failed to disclose an criminal conviction in his past — evaporated when Sufi himself resigned when it was revealed he’d fudged his CV, and mocked WA MP Michael Sutherland’s accent, while using crude sexual language. He’d previously argued marriage equality would lead to polygamy and criticised the stolen generation apology, but obviously that’s no barrier to entry of the broad church.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

Peter Fray

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