The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has permanently banned Nicholas Hunter from the financial services industry after the corporate regulator’s investigation found he had acted illegally and is bankrupt.
ASIC’s examination of Hunter showed he provided inappropriate advice to SMSF clients in 2012, recommending they directly invest in property without taking into account their existing circumstances, investment portfolio or investment strategy.
It was also established Hunter was, at the time, selling properties on behalf of Queensland-based developer MOGS, receiving commissions of between $10,000 and $25,000 for each sale. MOGS is currently in liquidation.
In addition, ASIC determined Hunter was involved in the issue of falsified Westpac finance letters to MOGS to enable his commissions to be paid, failed to issue a financial services guide or statements of advice to his SMSF clients, operated a financial services website without a licence, and provided SMSF advice while unlicensed to do so.
“ASIC has recently focused our attention on the SMSF sector as the fastest-growing sector in the superannuation industry,” ASIC commissioner Greg Tanzer said.
“The matter involving Mr Hunter highlights ASIC’s concerns about the potential for direct property advice [through SMSFs] to constitute financial advice. Further, the adviser must act in the best interests of the client in giving that advice.”
The regulator said Hunter had worked for several licensees from 2002 and most recently for Spring Financial Group from May 2011 to June 2012.
However, Spring Financial Group parent Spring FG clarified Hunter’s employment history, issuing a statement that said: “At no stage was Hunter involved in the operation or conduct of any Spring FG business, nor did he have any dealings with its clients.
“Nick Hunter was an employee of and representative of an independent firm, Murphy Dawson Partners.
“For a limited period from May 2011 to May 2012, Murphy Dawson held a corporate authorised representative arrangement with Spring Financial.
“Spring Financial unilaterally terminated that arrangement more than three years ago over concerns it held as to the conduct of Murphy Dawson.
“Spring FG welcomes the banning order against Hunter.”