ASIC review of investment banks shows poor practice

From Sarah Danckert:

The ASIC review of investments banks found that not only do the heavyweights of Australia’s financial system have difficulty in managing their conflicts of interest they also financially reward staff for potentially conflicted behaviour.

…..So ugly is the result the Australian Securities and Investments Commission has warned the people often known as the smartest men and women in the room it will take action against the culprits if the poor behaviour continues.

……Managing conflicts of interest are crucial for investment banks because often one part of the bank is advising on an asset sale or an initial public offering while the bank’s research arm is producing research for the investment banks’ investor clients about the quality of the assets or the IPO.

….ASIC said it had also found “instances of remuneration structures where research remuneration decisions, including discretionary bonuses, took into account research analyst involvement in marketing corporate transactions”.

The review also found “instances with mid-sized firms where research reports on a company were authored by the corporate advisory team that advised the company on a capital-raising transaction or had an ongoing corporate advisory mandate”.

Results of the review come as no surprise. When there is a conflict between profits with multi-million dollar bonuses and independence the outcome should be obvious.

Having worked in the industry, I believe that the only way to achieve independence is to separate investment banks from research houses, with no financial linkage. A professional body for research houses would ensure independence in much the same way as the auditing profession. There is no better way of enforcing good behavior than the threat of censure from a professional body that has the power to prevent its members from practicing.

Source: ASIC review of investment banks post UBS-Baird government run-in shows poor practice