We were not consulted on data retention law changes: ASIC

ASIC has warned that under the new laws, Australia’s burgeoning $1.87 trillion retirement savings pool could be even more exposed to fraud.The corporate regulator says it was not consulted about changes to data retention laws that will leave it without access to phone recordings vital to catching white-collar criminals.  Speaking before the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security, Australian Securities and Investments Commission commissioner Greg Tanzer warned that the agency had “grave concerns” the bill, which removes ASIC from being able to access telecommunications data, could pose serious threats to economic security. “This type of evidence is vital for ASIC’s investigation of white-collar crime such as insider trading,” Mr Tanzer said.  “We have grave concerns that the bill in its current form could compromise ASIC’s investigation powers and increase the threat to Australians of financial crime.” Mr Tanzer said ASIC had not been consulted by the Attorney-General’s Department about being excluded from the list of agencies allowed to access telecommunications data under the new laws.  He said the agency first learnt about the decision when details of the bill were made public on October 30.  Deputy chair of the committee, Labor MP Anthony Byrne, described the situation as a “pretty interesting consultation process”.  A spokesman for Attorney-General George Brandis declined to comment. The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill was introduced by Mr Brandis in October as part of the government’s “counter-terrorism” package. Under the current regime, ASIC and other regulators are able to access stored metadata but that will be curtailed under the bill making its way through Parliament. ASIC has warned that under the new laws, Australia’s burgeoning $1.87 trillion retirement savings pool, which has already been a target of corporate criminals, could be even more exposed to fraud.  “The physical harm and the mental anguish that is suffered by victims of fraud and white-collar crime is vast and ongoing, as demonstrated by the collapse of the Trio superannuation funds,” Mr Tanzer told the committee. ASIC and its previous incarnations have had access to telecommunications data since 1979. Metadata from communications intercepts are one of the regulator’s key evidence-gathering tools in prosecuting white-collar criminals, particularly insider trading cases, which are notoriously hard to prove. Mr Tanzer told the committee that the regulator had used metadata in 81 per cent of insider trading cases it had prosecuted.  Information ASIC has gathered as part of investigations of corporate crime in the past, including basic information on telephone calls and emails, will not be able to be obtained for investigations unless it is given special clearance by the government. The bill was designed to ease privacy concerns about the new requirement that telecommunications companies retain communications metadata for two years by limiting the number of agencies that can access the stored information. The regulator has urged the government in its submission to the inquiry to include it on the list of agencies entitled to access the data.

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