LAWS GOVERNING access to personal information on company member registers do not go far enough, a peak body representing governance professionals said this week.
Chartered Secretaries Australia (CSA) has asked that the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) back reforms to allow companies to restrict the way member information can be used. Access should be denied when companies believe a “proper purpose” does not exist, CSA said.
Legitimate purposes for accessing mutual entity registers are limited to those promoting good governance, said CSA chief executive Tim Sheehy. This could include sending information to members about merger proposals or to convene a general meeting, he said.
“For consistency, this approach should also apply to companies and registered schemes — after all, the interests and privacy of their members deserve equal protection,” he said.
Companies are now obliged to give anyone access to their share registers, the only control being that it is used for matters related to shareholders. But unlike with mutual entities, companies and registered schemes cannot refuse access nor inquire into the proposed use of the information.
“This is a fundamental flaw and effectively denies shareholders the privacy rights they would have as a consumer,” he said.
While CSA applauded ASIC’s recent round of consultation aimed at clarifying when access would be granted to a mutual entity’s member register, “we firmly believe that broader reforms are needed so that members of companies and registered schemes have the same fundamental protections presently only enjoyed by mutual entities”.