A joint announcement by federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert revealed that the government is considering hiking the maximum prison time and “significantly” increasing fines for the most serious offences “in closer alignment with leading international jurisdictions”.
The changes aim to align the prison term with "the seriousness of the misconduct".
If approved, this could mean that some jail times could more than double.
Under the proposed bill, the maximum financial penalty for Corporations Act contraventions — in cases where the current maximum term is less than 10 years — will be calculated by multiplying the maximum term of imprisonment in months by 10 (in terms of months) for individuals and a further 10 for bodies corporate.
Meanwhile, the maximum prison sentence for a person providing false information will rise from two years to five and the most serious offences in the Corporations Act will have their maximum term of imprisonment increased from five years to 10 years.
Further, the new bill proposes that the financial penalties for individuals be increased by 4,500 penalty units or triple “the benefit derived or detriment avoided” as a result of the contravention.
This means that penalties would increase more than five‑fold, from $200,000 to $1.05 million, or three times the benefit gained from the breach, whichever amount is greater.
For corporates, the government is seeking to raise the financial penalties by 45,000 penalty units, triple the gains made or prevented due to the infraction, or 10 per cent of the corporation’s annual turnover, whichever amount is greatest.
They “may” also be stripped of the earnings gained from illegal activities, according to the government’s announcement.
This news comes as the corporate regulator, ASIC, found that major banks are taking an average of 1,726 days — or about 4.5 years — to identify significant breaches.
“Our review found that, on average, it takes over five years from the occurrence of the incident before customers and consumers are remediated, which is a sad indictment on the financial services industry. This must not stand,” said ASIC chair James Shipton.