Advisers anonymous: How to report dodgy dealings

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Financial planners may find themselves questioning the work of another planner – or any professional – at times. At such a moment, it would be beneficial to have a regulator check the facts, without getting caught up in the crossfire.

However, one financial planner found that it is not so simple. The planner, who wished to remain anonymous, says he complained to ASIC about a suspicious accountant two months ago…and still hasn’t heard back.

 “I reported it to ASIC two months ago and they said they would send me some links to put all the information on a complaint form, but I didn’t want to make an official complaint. I just wanted them to know about the matter.”

The ‘matter’, was that a client had been recommended an SMSF, when it did not seem right for his needs.

The planner claims he never heard back following the initial phone call. The fact that he believed at the time that he would have to attach his name and contact details to an official complaint meant he opted not to submit one, since he feared he’d be dragged into a potential court case.

“You just think that ASIC should have a streamlined process and take it on board. All they’re interested in is sending you a link to make an official complaint and I don’t want to make an official complaint. You have to attach your name to it.”

Given the influx of reader complaints regarding ASIC’s, complaints process, we decided to approach them ourselves, asking for an explanation of options when it comes to reporting potential cases misconduct – particularly if an adviser doesn’t want his/her name on the complaint.

While ASIC wasn’t able to provide comment on the above case – and was unwilling to offer an estimate of how long it should take for an individual case to be dealt with, a spokesman said that some of the above statements are the result of misinformation.

For instance, he says the belief that complaints must include the name and contact details of the issuer is untrue – though it can limit the amount of communication ASIC provides.

“We keep all reports of misconduct lodged with us confidential. People can lodge reports with us anonymously, if they wish. We may be limited in what information we can provide back to anonymous reporters, and it will depend on the anonymous reporter giving us some contact detail information.”

As a matter of process, says the spokesperson, ASIC doesn’t take the details of misconduct over the phone, such as through calls to the call centre or receptions.

“People on our call centre or reception will advise callers that they should lodge the report online. If a misconduct reporter requires assistance to lodge a report with us online, (e.g. are unable to use a computer or may have a physical disability etc) we will attempt to provide the assistance.”

“We encourage people who believe they have evidence of a breach of a law we administer to lodge a misconduct report with us online,” says the spokesman. “They can do so at www.asic.gov.au/complain.”

  • Mel on 30/09/2013 1:17:31 PM

    I have previously lodged a complaint with the CPA about a "dodgy" Accountant, and they investigated fully. Try there!

  • Paul on 30/09/2013 5:27:02 PM

    I want to complain about a Mortgage broker being able to get 1.5 mil in loans to a client earning just $37k (personally) although he does have 50% LVR .. would ASIC take my complaint?

  • Innocent Observer on 3/10/2013 10:59:26 AM

    @Paul - unless the mortgage broker is providing advice under an AFSL, there is no issue.

    ASIC would probably take your complaint and follow you up with a letter/call/email in a few weeks. In my opinion this would be a bit of a waste of their time (unless you genuinely think it's an issue). The guys at ASIC are pretty busy -- remember that the red-tape we have to wade through is the stuff they need to enforce...so the more of this bloody time-wasting compliance there is the busier they get too.

    In terms of your example, if I were the lender I wouldn't see a major issue -- I take security on $3m of assets and if old mate can't keep up with his repayments I double my money (plus any interest received, less liquidation and economic costs). I'd say the lender would be looking at a >70% net (BIT) return, so a fairly generous payback for the risk.

    For the borrower, it very well may be the case that the rental income covers the interest cost. As for whether this is a sensible investment strategy, well that depends on the individual but it sounds to me like they've been to too many property-investment-get-rich-quick seminars. What happens when interest rates tick up 2% or 3%, or periods between tenancy etc etc...

    But anyway. The short answer is that mortgage brokers are only answerable to NCCP, and by the sounds of it the broker is not in breach.

    Remember too that property is not a regulated financial product, so the property-spruiking lobby is pretty much above the law when it comes to dodgy dealings

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