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Greens secure Inquiry into white-collar crime penalties

Media Release
Peter Whish-Wilson 25 Nov 2015

The Senate has voted to support a Greens motion to establish a Senate Inquiry into penalties for white-collar crime.

Greens spokesperson for Finance, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson says “The current system of white-collar crime penalties in Australia are not providing the deterrence we need to stop the ongoing financial scandals.

“The United States, for instance has double the potential jail-term available as compared to Australia in cases of fraud, insider trading and market manipulation.

“ASIC Chairman Greg Medcraft has previously said ‘We have to lift the fear and smother the greed. White-collar criminals are scared of going to jail. I had 10 years on Wall Street and going to jail is the thing that scares them most…When they come up to the 18th floor and they put people in handcuffs and wheel them off they don’t come back. It sends a message.

“The Financial System Inquiry head, David Murray has said, ‘the penalty regime in ASIC is like being hit by a lettuce leaf.’

Senator Whish-Wilson continues, “It’s not just at the top end of white-collar crime penalties that Australia struggles to keep pace with other nations. ASIC doesn’t have the array of administrative penalties available that other jurisdictions have, let alone have strong powers to reclaim any ill-gotten gains.

“For me, this is the natural step we need to take following the earlier Senate Inquiry into ASIC and the Financial Systems Inquiry. The ASIC Inquiry itself recommended that an inquiry into penalties be carried out.

“For too long the sector has worn penalties of corporate wrongdoing as a cost of doing business. The punishment needs to fit the crime. And the punishment needs to hurt so much that the businesses work so much harder to prevent these sort of scandals from happening again,” he concluded.

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