CommInsure review to run into 2017: ASIC

ASIC will complete the first part of a review of the life insurance industry by September but an in-depth probe will take much longer, the regulator has told a Senate hearing.

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ASIC deputy chairman Peter Kell also says the watchdog has received about 50,000 documents from the Commonwealth Bank as it begins its review of the bank’s CommInsure life insurance business.

Mr Kell, appearing before a Senate Economics References Committee hearing in Sydney on Thursday, said all insurers would be part of ASIC’s wider industry review, which will review the past five years of claim management.

He said he expected to give the government a preliminary report by September but said that initial process would likely identify products or providers were further examination or work was required.

“I can assure you today that we are giving it the utmost priority,” Mr Kell said.

The review of CommInsure, following allegations in March that it mishandled life insurance payouts, would likely form an “initial view” within months but a public statement is unlikely for some time, given the amount of work to yet be done, Mr Kell said.

“It is frankly too early to say much more than that at this stage,” he said.

“This is a large and complex investigation.”

Mr Kell told the inquiry he expects the CommInsure review to continue well into next year.

About 50,000 bank documents have been taken for the deeper review, which will look at how whistleblowers are treated, complaints are handled and what additional penalties, like larger fines or bans for executives, could be introduced.

The federal government last week announced an addition $127.2 million for ASIC, which Mr Kell said “will enable us to undertake additional surveillance and industry reviews in the life insurance sector and also expand current reviews as required”.

Federal Labor is maintaining its push for a royal commission into the banking sector.