Bully ASIC 'after scalps': Former PIS boss

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A former financial planner and head of Professional Investment Services has slammed ASIC for “an unwillingness to communicate and a desire to bully”.

In a submission to the Senate Committee Inquiry into ASIC’s performance, Robbie Bennett claimed the regulator was “not willing to participate in discussion and resolution – rather they are after ‘scalps’ and the perception of being an active enforcer".

Bennett has extensive industry experience beginning in 1986, and outlined a number of encounters with ASIC in which he claimed the regulator showed a lack of understanding and an unwillingness to listen.

The former planner alleged he raised issues regarding failed financial companies Storm Financial and Westpoint on various occasions with ASIC representatives, but the regulator failed to act.

Bennett claimed inconsistency in the way the regulator prosecutes offenders, saying ASIC merely looks to prove a point.

“Advisers and AFSL holders are seen as easy scapegoats and quick fixes – whilst the fundamentals remain unaddressed and flawed. Surely liability for failed products lies with the product manager who has the control, responsibility and ultimate benefit – not the intermediary,” he wrote.

“Product providers are not held accountable for their actions. If the product providers were held accountable for the information in their documents and what they do with the clients’ money, most issues could be avoided. Remembering, remove product failure and you remove 98% of bad advice. Failing to ‘dot an i’ or ‘cross a t’ is not what causes financial losses.

“More regulation and red tape is seen as the only solution – on the basis that the end consumer is the ‘beneficiary’ of this increased regulation. Increased regulation that leads to consumers being provided with over 100 pages of advice is not in the best interests of consumers,” wrote Bennett.

The Senate inquiry into ASIC’s performance has so far received over 400 submissions, four of which came from ASIC defending its position and actions.

The regulator’s latest submission, in mid-December, detailed changes to Commonwealth Financial Planning Limited's (CFPL) business practices as result of compliance with its enforceable undertaking with ASIC, as well as providing an update on CFPL’s compensation scheme and the methodology used to compensate clients.

Earlier that month, ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft released a video accusing the media of attempting to "cast doubt on ASIC's good work and smear our staff and culture".

MORE:

Whistle-blower: ASIC's culture to 'shift blame'

Former ASIC employee allegedly denied whistle-blower protection 

ASIC update Senate Inquiry on punished company 
  • James Boehm-Carter on 10/01/2014 10:07:20 AM

    finally someone in the industry who tells it as it is. Well done Robbie! What about the poor advisers who were involved in the Astarra nightmare. No adviser sets out to put their clients funds at risk. The sooner ASIC realize this the better. If a chemist sells a bad batch of tablets does he get slaugtered. I dont think so.. its the manufacturer who should be held to blame.

  • GAB on 10/01/2014 10:27:03 AM

    I think if an adviser ignores the principles of diversification and lumps all investor money with one company...incentive involved or not...then they are partly responsible at least. But they should not be held responsible if a failed fund manager was part of a diversified portfolio. No wonder more advisers are running to the safety of index funds and multi-manager offerings. Seems like when a fund fails it turns into "inappropriate advice" or a breach of the "know your product" rule.

  • alleycat on 10/01/2014 10:30:44 AM

    Robbie, you couldn't be more on the money.

    You need to add the responsibility of Research Houses in the mix when they don't do their job properly in particular to mortgage funds in Qld.

    When MFS Investment Management folded, do you think at the outset the Research Houses should have asked which bank the $50m support facility was in before they ditched the LLoyd's insurance policy ?.
    Do you think they should have known that there was a mezzanine finance company within MFS lending an additional 18.0% above the stated LVR in the PDS of 70.0% to developers ?
    Do you think the Research Houses should have known that the Directors loaded $147m of debt onto the unit holders that was theirs?
    And yet .... ASIC say advisers should have known about this stuff.
    If the Research Houses don't find out where the mines are in the minefield, we'll be putting clients funds into banks, to be safe.
    Wait a minute.... ASIC just found out the banks via their owned Dealer Groups may have a conflict of interest and clients are being shortchanged. How unusual !!

  • 21st Century Adviser on 10/01/2014 10:42:36 AM

    ASIC and the ATO for that matter don't always get it right and there is beauracracy but hey its govt....but in the main they do a decent job....just like our industry.
    Plenty of shonks, spivs, get rich quick merchants, inept and plain thieves getting banned and locked up which is fantastic....should be more of it! I am proud of the industry I have worked in for 25 years but am still embarrassed daily by some of its participants....the noisy few! Until we rise above some of this we will still be looked down on as a profession. This commentary does us no favours if we want to be taken seriously by other professions.
    To comment on the comment...no selling bad tablets doesnt make you a bad chemist or deserve locking up unless you knew they were bad, made them yourself, or bought dodgey tablets off second rate merchants to make more money...not reviewing your suppliers leaves you open to being caught up in things...WP give us some real news and people we want to hear from!

  • Steve on 10/01/2014 11:32:24 AM

    ASIC is run & staffed by pen pushing legal eagle sales prevention officers. None of them have any real experience, none of them can, did or will have the skills to see a problem coming. All of them are great finger pointers. Often in the wrong direction but it satisfies their old heads. Constantly asleep at the wheel is old grey haired ASIC.

  • James Howarth on 10/01/2014 1:23:24 PM

    ASIC need to be reined in.

    Products need observation and regulation, advisers need liberation.

    ASIC are an expense consumers could do without.

    Dealer groups are implicit in conflicted advice and dealer group licensing is destroying the industry.

    Direct licensing by a professional group, either or fpa or afa or any other, like accountants.

    What has the senate enquiry achieved?

  • B two on 10/01/2014 4:59:39 PM

    ASIC have not kept up with the times and are using outdated procedures and standards. They continue to make mistakes and oversights and are not pursuing those who should be held accountable for product failures. Instead they take the easy option of running spell check and picking on advisers who fail to dot their i's and cross their t's! Maybe its time for grey haired ASIC to retire? How will they survive on their Super investments which have been taken away under their watch by failure or fraud?

  • Alan on 10/01/2014 5:05:56 PM

    I have made comments here about the climate of fear and intimidation that ASIC are generating but these comments are not posted. I make the point again, this whole advice industry is under threat by the bureaucrats pushing the totally unnecessary and restrictive legislation imposed by stupid politicians who have no idea. The FOFA has been imposed by the previous shambolic Labor government and we all now have to wear the legacy of that regime. The comments here about ASIC do not surprise me and I think it is completely pointless and counterproductive for them to generate this culture of "we're coming to get you" based on a few bad apples.

  • Steve on 12/01/2014 11:37:02 AM

    Attention ASIC: you are viewed by almost every single person in our industry as a joke. How about you try & recover some kind of credibility & freaking do SOMETHING proactive rather chasing post trauma cases & individuals. Why don't you START by getting rid of this useless "dealer group" nonsense & compliance CIRCUS? Just these two crucial things Need URGENT attention. Why ASIC do you allow this circus to continue as it does. Why ASIC can't you see the solution that is so blatantly obvious for this industry? Are you all just moronic public servants asleep in your towers? COME ON ASIC do something! We are all waiting!!

  • Xavier on 14/01/2014 2:06:25 PM

    I agree with all that has been said so far. I think that ASIC is a necessary evil that needs to be exorcised. Aiming for advisers scalps is wrong the Labor Gov FoFa legislation is making advise ridiculously risky for advisers and hence expensive for the client. I have been doing this for 30 years and I am more confused about law then I ever was. I don't want to be dragged into court needlessly hence my business is up for sale as soon as the current power fix the debacle of FoFa consequential side effects. I agree that product providers should be held responsible not advisers (direct and only).

WP forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

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