Medcraft defends ASIC track record

ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft has blasted recent criticism of the corporate regulator as a "smear" on its staff and the agency's "good work", ahead of a Senate inquiry into its operations.

ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft has blasted recent criticism of the corporate regulator as a "smear" on its staff and the agency's "good work", ahead of a Senate inquiry into its operations.

In fiery comments made via YouTube, Mr Medcraft said ASIC had "much to be proud of" in its enforcement work, and he defended his frequent overseas travel as the chair of the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO).

"Recent media reports have tried to cast doubt on ASIC's good work and smear our staff and culture. These reports coincide with a Senate inquiry into our performance," he said.

Mr Medcraft said the agency was co-operating fully with the inquiry, called in the wake of a Fairfax Media expose of a financial scandal inside the Commonwealth Bank. ASIC had been tipped off about problems inside the CBA's financial planning division but had failed to act as pensioners and investors lost their life savings.

Mr Medcraft said ASIC had made three submissions to the inquiry and was prepared to answer "any and every question to the best of their ability".

"Our submission shows that ASIC has done much to be proud of. We have an excellent staff - men and women who work here because they believe in the public interest," Mr Medcraft said. "Inquiries like this are all part of our accountability to the Parliament, and that's something we take very seriously."

Mr Medcraft said the 343 submissions made to the inquiry by members of the public and other stakeholders had been comprehensively reviewed by the agency. "We want to use this information to do a better job."

He said his position as chairman of IOSCO "means we have an Australian helping to shape the international financial agenda".

"That is, we have an Australian looking out for Australia."

As Fairfax Media reported last month, in the first 10 months of the year, Mr Medcraft spent at least 51 days overseas, visiting cities including Paris, New York, London and St Petersburg.

The extensive travel drew criticism from Nationals senator John Williams, who is a driving force behind the Senate inquiry into ASIC.

"He shouldn't worry about the world's problems until he fixes Australia's first," Senator Williams said.

Mr Medcraft was elected to the role last year, taking up office this year. He said IOSCO represented 120 countries, or 95 per cent of capital markets, and was "the key reference group for the G20 leaders and other policymakers".

"Being chairman of IOSCO does mean I have to travel from time to time, but I think it's important and benefits Australia," he said.

"So many of the issues facing Australia are global issues and need a global response.

"Also, we want to make sure that global initiatives work for Australia, rather than against us.

"My work in leading IOSCO is about thinking ahead, taking action now for the longer term benefit of investors and businesses in Australia and right around the world."

He said IOSCO was doing valuable work fighting financial cyber crime, which he said cost Australia $1 billion a year.

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