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Sec Comm looks to go after finance companies

Securities Commission officials have told MPs to expect substantial action against finance companies following the recent collapses.

Friday, November 16th 2007, 3:11PM

by Rob Hosking

There may though be insufficient powers under current law to go after advisers who gave misleading advice.

Chief executive Jane Diplock told Parliament's commerce select committee yesterday the commission is currently evaluating its legal moves.

The commission was voted just under $3 million for its litigation fund in the Budget, and it also has a boost of more than $2 million in costs awarded from the recent Tranz Rail insider trading case.

"We will probably need to – and we are currently discussing this – have to look at the quantum of our litigation fund." Commission counsel Liam Mason told MPs. "The number of cases coming out of the finance company sector may exceed what we have available for litigation."

The commission may ask the government for extra money to pursue the cases.

Even before the first wave of collapses the commission was sufficiently concerned to write to all finance companies and ask for a disclosure of their current situation.

Diplock also expressed concern about the role of financial advisers in the finance company area.

"We do still have a completely unregulated adviser sector – I believe the legislation will come into effect by the end of this year may have a profound influence on the whole form of investment advice in New Zealand."

Asked by National MP Richard Worth about whether the commission had powers to go after "the middlemen" in the finance company cases Mason said it does not appear the commission does.

"In effect we do not. One of the changes which is going to come into effect by the end of the year will bring investment advisers under more suitable regulation."

Diplock told MPs New Zealand still has some way to go before its financial services sector has sufficient regulatory oversight.

Rob Hosking is a Wellington-based freelance writer specialising in political, economic and IT related issues.

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