Banned former CEO speaks out

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The former chief executive of Lion Advantage – stripped of its financial services licence last year – has lost his appeal, and says Australian Securities and Investments Commission unfairly targeted him.

ASIC banned David Hickie in August last year from providing financial services for two years and cancelled his company Lion Advantage’s licence, for being found without adequate PI cover and in breach of financial reporting obligations. Last week, the Administrative Appeal Tribunal upheld the corporate regulator’s decision.

“Mr Hickie had almost completely disregarded his and Lion’s statutory duties despite being a director, secretary and CEO of Lion. His repeated failures to comply with his statutory duties were met with explanations which were not only inconsistent, but in some instances wholly implausible,” Senior Member Egon Fice wrote in his judgment.

“Perhaps the most concerning aspect of Mr Hickie’s evidence was the apparent lack of understanding that he had in fact failed to comply with his statutory duties… In my opinion, Mr Hickie has displayed a serious disregard for the financial services law. In his case, a banning order is appropriate.”

But Hickie told Wealth Professional he has been unfairly targeted by ASIC, although he would not appeal the decision.

“I’m pretty upset. I haven’t done much wrong that others haven’t done as well. It’s damaged my reputation…I know I was unfairly targeted by ASIC.”

Hickie is staying mum on exactly why he was “targeted”, but says all will be revealed come January. “Watch this space – things will be different in January. People will know why I’ve been targeted.”

The past few months have been “difficult” for the 62-year-old, who says he has worked all his life in the financial services industry and started fund managing in 1983. He is the director of two public companies and is working in Indonesia until things die down.

 “People say I’m not a good person, not good to be around their business. I can’t afford to say too much now… But I’m not a bad person, all right?”

In nine months Hickie can reapply for a fund management licence again, but says he will not.

“I’ve got to work out what I am going to do next – but it’s not fund management. I’m getting too old for that. My business has been destroyed… [but] it doesn’t affect my entrepreneurial skills.”

The problems were first brought in front of a dispute resolution tribunal and Hickie thinks it should have stayed there longer for talks to progress, before ASIC imposed penalties. “I might have been slightly guilty but it could have been rectified. Instead – bam.”

Lion Advantage provided financial product services to retail clients and operated four registered managed investment schemes which invested in real property.

However, ASIC found Lion Advantage was failing to fulfil its obligations as a financial services licensee by repeatedly failing to:
  • have adequate PI insurance in place;
  • lodge audited financial reports on time for Lion Advantage and the schemes it operated;
  • hold membership of an ASIC-approved external dispute resolution scheme in 2007 and for the period between 31 October 2011 and 7 March 2012.
ASIC has been asked for comment. At the time the ban was made, ASIC commissioner Greg Tanzer said companies have important obligations to comply with the reporting process. 

"Licensees who fail to maintain adequate PI insurance expose retail clients to the risk that they go uncompensated in circumstances where a licensee has insufficient funds to meet client claims."

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