APRA doubles insurance, super probes

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority doubled its investigations of financial institutions over the 2001-2002 period, from 96 the previous year to 199, its annual report shows.

Banks, general insurers and superannuation funds came under closer scrutiny for matters such as tax avoidance, fraud or general business failure, with APRA stepping up its activity in the wake of HIH's collapse and subsequent criticism of the regulator.

Of the institutions investigated, 108 were super funds and 58 were general insurers. In the preceding period the figures were 45 and 28 respectively. In addition to visiting companies, APRA also increased its supervision of risk and types of investments that super funds were involved in, and as a result closed down several smaller funds.

APRA also warned deposit-taking institutions about their lending practices to business borrowers, asking some to cut back on activity until adequate assessment criteria and credit policies were put in place.

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