Commonwealth prosecutors and the Federal Court will be given a $51.5 million funding boost to turn up the heat on bankers and financial institutions accused of criminal or civil misconduct emerging from the financial services royal commission.
In the expectation that potential prosecutions will need to be dealt with "effectively and expeditiously", Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced a $41.6 million funding top-up for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) over eight years.
- Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions will get $41.6m and Federal Court will get $9.9m
- The move is in anticipation of "an increase in disputes with financial institutions"
- The Committee of Regulatory Enforcement Strategy will be established to look into the financial sector
- "This additional funding will allow the CDPP to prosecute cases faster to ensure individuals and companies that have broken the law will face justice sooner," Mr Frydenberg said.
Mr Frydenberg said the Federal Court would receive $9.9 million over four years and announced the Attorney-General's Department would conduct a review into whether the court's jurisdiction should be expanded to include corporate crime.
Criminal misconduct by banks currently must be heard in state courts, where they are forced to compete with state cases for appropriate resources and scheduling.
Last month, former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Graeme Samuel told the ABC Federal Court judges did not always have the necessary expertise to hear complex cases of white-collar crime.
The funding will be used to boost Federal Court resources, including the appointment of two new judges to hear civil cases.
"These appointments will accommodate an increase in disputes with financial institutions as well as claims from ASIC's increased enforcement activity," Mr Frydenberg said.
The extra financial firepower to pursue cases of misconduct comes as chief executives and chairs from major banks prepare to face intense grillings when the royal commission resumes for its final round of hearings on Monday.
In recent months, wealth manager AMP, National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank have been embroiled in "fees for no service" scandals, which involve alleged criminal breaches of the Corporations Act.
In addition to the new funding, a new body will be established to regularly examine enforcement matters in the financial sector, including those emerging from the royal commission.
The Committee of Regulatory Enforcement Strategy will be chaired by the Attorney-General's Department and will be made of representatives of the key regulators overseeing the financial sector.
Despite calls from Labor for the royal commission to be extended to hear more case studies, Commissioner Kenneth Hayne is yet to ask for more time and remains on track to deliver his final report on February 1.This article was first published by https://www.abc.net.au/
Author: Peter Ryan