ASIC accused of failing to end bullying

Bullying and mismanagement complaints continue to emerge from staff responsible for the integrity of Australia's financial markets, amid claims these markets have operated without appropriate oversight.

Bullying and mismanagement complaints continue to emerge from staff responsible for the integrity of Australia's financial markets, amid claims these markets have operated without appropriate oversight.

Confidential survey results obtained by BusinessDay show 14 per cent of staff in the small team responsible for monitoring equities and derivatives markets have been subjected to ongoing bullying or harassment in the past year, compared with 6 per cent across the whole of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

This was less than the 27 per cent who reported bullying in 2011, after which all staff were given three hours of training to "replace unproductive assumptions and behaviours with more constructive workplace actions".

But ASIC denies bullying is a continuing problem in the division, saying it has received just one unsubstantiated complaint in the past three years.

According to the 2012 survey, 23 per cent of staff within the financial market infrastructure (FMI) section were dissatisfied with their job even though most felt a sense of personal accomplishment.

The division of about 30 people has lower job satisfaction than the rest of ASIC, particularly with work and life balance and workloads.

An anonymous source said ASIC's internal complaint system was useless and the human resources team unsupportive, and that time-wasting and mistakes had led to instances where markets "operated without the appropriate regulatory oversight", although without negative consequences.

"The team is very small, there is nowhere to run. Retaliation is subtle and difficult to prove. Even conclusions to bullying complaints can be written in such a way as to not bind the agency. You will never get an apology," the source said.

But a spokesman said ASIC was "supremely confident the markets are being properly and efficiently monitored by a team of highly engaged and satisfied professionals".

The earlier complaint was "found to be without substance", and the worker was warned that more unsubstantiated complaints "could be viewed as vexatious behaviour".

The spokesman said overall the 2012 survey results "were very pleasing" and better than the rest of the federal public service.

"People reporting bullying and harassment in ASIC has dropped from 2010 and 2011 and is below the [Australian Public Sector] state of the service report," he said.

But the Community and Public Sector Union's deputy national president, Alistair Waters, said ASIC has had a culture of bullying and harassment in the past.

"But recently we have detected a marked change, thanks to ASIC and union delegates who have brought this kind of behaviour out into the open. We continue to monitor the situation there."

The FMI team monitors market operators, clearing and settlement facilities and trade repositories. In August 2010 it took over supervision of equity, derivatives and futures markets trading from the Australian Securities Exchange [ASX].

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