ASIC updates guidance for investing in mortgage schemes

ASIC has released revised disclosure benchmarks and separate disclosure principles for unlisted mortgage schemes to improve awareness of the risks of investing in these products.

An accompanying investor guide has also been released to assist investors to use the benchmark and disclosure principles in identifying and assessing the risks of unlisted mortgages schemes.

This is set out in Regulatory Guide 45 Mortgage schemes: improving disclosure for retail investors (RG 45) and Investor Guide: Investing in mortgage schemes.

Since the publication of the original RG 45, the unlisted mortgage scheme sector has experienced a substantial increase in the number of redemption requests where the responsible entities could not realise sufficient assets to satisfy. This resulted in a large scale suspension of redemptions.

ASIC responded by making urgent modifications to the law to facilitate partial investor access to funds in cases of hardship and subsequently, to simplify the procedures for periodic withdrawal offers out of available cash. ASIC also liaised with individual responsible entities of frozen funds to explore options for affected investors and where possible, facilitate access to funds (refer: 10-109AD).

ASIC then consulted industry formally through Consultation Paper 141 Mortgage Schemes: Strengthening the disclosure benchmarks (CP 141) on extending and strengthening our existing regulatory guidance on disclosure for unlisted mortgage schemes in RG 45 to protect future investors.

ASIC Commissioner Greg Tanzer said: ‘ASIC’s first priority is to ensure consumers and financial investors are fully informed and can make confident investment decisions. This is especially important when considering risky investments like unlisted mortgage funds. People need to understand the risks, particularly in relation to asset liquidity and withdrawal arrangements. It is important that investors understand that the assets of these schemes are less liquid than other investments and this affects any rights they have to get their money back.

RG 45 is one of the series of the ‘if not, why not’ benchmark model of disclosure for sectors that pose particular risk to investors and financial consumers. Unlisted mortgage schemes must disclose whether they meet the benchmarks and if not, why not. This means they must explain how they will deal with the business factor or the issue underlying the benchmark.

The revised regulatory guidance follows the publication of new disclosure benchmarks and disclosure principles for other high risk investments in:

  • Regulatory Guide 46 Unlisted property schemes: Improving disclosure for retail investors (RG 46)
  • Regulatory Guide 231 Infrastructure entities: Improving disclosure for retail investors (RG 231)
  • Regulatory Guide 227 Over-the-counter contracts for difference: Improving disclosure for retail investors (RG 227) and
  • Regulatory Guide 232 Agribusiness managed investment schemes: Improving disclosure for retail investors (RG 232).