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Meet the man that big bank CEOs will have to answer to

Jessica Yun
·4-min read
(Source: AAP, Herbert Smith Freehills)
Joe Longo has been selected as the corporate watchdog's new chairman. (Source: AAP, Herbert Smith Freehills)

Australia’s corporate watchdog ASIC, which regulates the big four banks, other financial institutions and oversees the nation’s financial system, has named its new chief.

Set to replace chairman James Shipton is Joe Longo, an investment banker with more than three decades’ experience spanning several global cities.

He will replace Shipton in the top job, who stood aside when an investigation was launched after revelations that ASIC paid him more than $118,000 to receive personal tax advice.

While Shipton was cleared of misconduct and has since returned to the role, it was announced in late January that he would step down from the position “in coming months”.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg described Longo as “highly qualified and experienced” with a “deep understanding of both the private and public sectors”.

Speaking about Longo’s appointment, Shipton said: “His wealth of domestic and international experience will serve ASIC well in the vital work it does in supporting the financial system and economy, especially as Australia recovers from the downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Here’s a little bit of background on ASIC’s incoming chair, who will be bringing financial institutions and big bank bosses to heel, and the experience he’ll bring to the new job, which he starts on 1 June.

He’s got an Ivy League education

Longo was educated in Perth, but didn’t stay for long.

After graduating from the University of Western Australia’s Law School with a Bachelor of Jurisprudence and a Bachelor of Laws, completing both with honours, he topped it off with a Masters of Laws Yale Law School.

He was also admitted to practice in New York, and has practised as a corporate and banking lawyer at New York-based international law firm Skadden.

Between 1988 and 1995, he spent eight years as a commercial litigation partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, formerly known as Parker & Parker.

During this time, he specialised in corporate litigation and ‘white collar’ defence, as well as contentious regulation matters.

Longo has worked at ASIC before

Some at ASIC might recognise Longo, or are former colleagues: between 1996 and 2000, he was National Director of Enforcement at the Commission.

In this role, he was responsible for coordination and direction of all investigations undertaken by ASIC, as well as prosecution and enforcement activities.

He’s worked in multiple continents

At some point, Longo has called Perth, New York, Sydney, Hong Kong, and London home.

After leaving ASIC, Longo joined Herbert Smith Freehills (then known as Freehills) in Sydney as Special Counsel, where he specialised in commercial litigation and regulatory issues.

In 2002, he joined Deutsche Bank as General Counsel of its Asia Pacific division, based in Hong Kong, where he advised the board and senior management.

His role evolved to encompass the UK and Europe, Middle East and Africa regions, and has been based in London since 2016.

Since mid-2019, Longo returned to Herbert Smith Freehills’ Perth office as a senior advisor where advises clients about risk management and on navigating the regulatory environment.

He’ll be joined by a 2IC

Longo’s appointment was announced alongside the appointment of a deputy chair, Sarah Court, who is currently a Commissioner at the competition watchdog ACCC.

She’s been in that role since 2008, and prior to that was a senior executive lawyer with the Australian Government Solicitor, and has extensive experience in consumer protection and law enforcement litigation.

She oversees the ACCC’s enforcement and litigation program, meaning she’ll likely bring this experience to ASIC’s enforcement activities.

ASIC will be regulated by a new regulator

In announcing the appointment of Longo, Frydenberg also announced that it was setting up a new ‘regulator of regulators’, the Financial Regulator Assessment Authority (FRAA), which will be responsible for overseeing the “effectiveness and capability” of ASIC and the prudential regulator, APRA.

The establishment of a ‘regulator of regulators’ was one of the recommendations made by the Banking Royal Commission’s Final Report by Kenneth Hayne.

“In its first year, the FRAA will be tasked with assessing the effectiveness and capability of ASIC so as to assist the incoming chair in ensuring ASIC is operating effectively and consistent with the Government’s Statement of Expectations,” said a statement from Frydenberg’s office.

The FRAA will be made up of three independent individuals as well as the Treasury Secretary, with reviews scheduled for every two years under the direction of the Treasurer.

Legislation will be introduced by mid-2021 to implement the FRAA.

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