ASIC Deputy Chair Advises General Counsels on Regulatory Perspective

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Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) deputy chairwoman Sarah Court has shared insights with the nation’s top in-house lawyers, urging them not to take regulatory scrutiny personally. 

Speaking at the annual General Counsel Summit in Sydney, Court emphasised the need for general counsels to recognise and communicate that regulators have a specific role in fulfilling rather than attributing it to personal motives.

Ms Court highlighted that regulators like ASIC are not the compliance arms of companies; rather, their focus remains on enforcing deterrence and compliance. She underlined the significance of general counsels’ demeanour in influencing the tone and effectiveness of regulatory investigations

​​”What that experience tells me is that the approach, and even the personality, of the general counsel, can be pivotal to whether a significant matter can be effectively resolved with a regulator or not,” Ms Court said.

Engaging directly with general counsels allows ASIC to gauge their potential as a conduit between the regulator and the business or board.

While company leaders might perceive regulatory actions as targeting them unfairly, Court proposed that effective general counsel can elucidate the regulatory purpose behind these actions. Viewing regulatory initiatives as part of the regulators’ job, rather than personal attacks, enables a more objective assessment of the situation. The Court further encouraged general counsels to prioritise addressing concerns over personalising the regulatory process.

The insights shared by Sarah Court reflect her experience as the head of enforcement and compliance at ASIC, as well as her prior role in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Her perspective underscores the need for a balanced approach that acknowledges the regulatory role while fostering productive company interactions.

With the ever-evolving regulatory reporting and enforcement landscape, the Court’s guidance promotes a more constructive understanding between regulators and companies, leading to a more transparent and productive regulatory environment.

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