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ASIC refuses just 3% of AFSL relief applications

The corporate regulator refused just 3% of Australian financial services licence relief applications in the six month period that saw COVID-19 intensify.

Outlining the regulator's relief application decisions in the six month period between October 2019 and March 2020, ASIC report 664 reveals most AFS licensing relief applications were approved as COVID-19 began to impact the financial services industry.

The regulator said its report shows how it helped the law "work better for business" by granting 619 applications for relief from the Corporations Act and National Credit Act during the six month period.

ASIC said the relief had a "net regulatory benefit" by facilitating business and cutting red tape, which it added is an important part of its function.

"The reporting of ASIC's decisions on relief applications aims to provide transparency about our decision making and to better inform businesses about the circumstances in which we grant relief," ASIC said.

"REP 664 lists publications released by ASIC during the period that may be relevant to prospective applicants for relief."

The report highlighted one case where ASIC chose to decline relief, when two entities of a corporate group sought relief to allow advisers of a licensee to continue providing advice after their transfer to an unlicensed entity.

Thanks to trust arrangements, the unlicensed entity was not considered a related body corporate of the licensee despite both entities sitting within the same corporate group. Originally, the firm planned to have the employment contracts of the financial advisers transferred to the unlicensed entity, which would then second the advisers back to the licensee.

ASIC said the unlicensed entity sought relief on behalf of both entities that would treat the two as related bodies corporate and therefore allow the advisers of the unlicensed entity to provide advice on behalf of the licensee.

"The relief was sought to avoid the requirements in s911B which, in the applicants' view, would have unusually onerous implications for them, including additional operational costs and business losses," ASIC said.

But the regulator saw it differently, and said there were "lawful and effective ways" for the advisers to provide advice, "and we did not consider there was a net regulatory benefit, or that the regulatory detriment of granting the relief was minimal and clearly outweighed by the commercial benefit".

Read more: ASICAFSCorporations ActNational Credit Act
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