A former Sydney financial adviser has been sentenced to six years’ jail after an investigation by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) found he had used his clients’ SMSF money for his own personal benefit.
The District Court of New South Wales convicted former financial adviser Ross Andrew Hopkins, of Killara, Sydney, of 15 dishonesty offences under the Corporations Act while he was the sole director of QWL Pty Ltd.
During Hopkins’ time as a financial adviser between 14 October 2016 and 8 October 2019, ASIC found he misappropriated about $2.9 million from his clients’ SMSFs and used the stolen funds for personal benefits, including holidays, rent, paying his credit card debts and repaying personal loans.
In 2019, the corporate watchdog began its investigation into Hopkins’ professional conduct after allegations QWL – a financial service company that dealt in SMSF security and advice – failed to assist the Australian Financial Complaints Authority in resolving client complaints.
Additionally, ASIC received orders restricting Hopkins and QWL from dissipating assets and providing financial services to clients, and has received further court orders to extend the restrictions until September 2021 when a directions hearing is to be conducted in the NSW Supreme Court.
In delivering sentence, Acting District Court Judge Gregory Woods QC said Hopkins used misrepresentations and concealments to avoid detection, adding he was a “trusted financial adviser, managing funds pretending it was business-like, lawful and profitable. Each of the victims trusted and relied on him for his expertise”.
Wood also described Hopkin’s behaviour as “deeply stupid”, however, “being stupid is no defence or mitigation”.
ASIC commissioner Danielle Press said: “Mr Hopkins lied to his clients and the court’s decision demonstrates the seriousness of this conduct. Financial advisers must be open and honest with their clients and if they aren’t, they face serious consequences.”
Hopkins has been disqualified from managing a corporation for five years and compensation orders have been sought in regards to his clients’ losses, with a further judgment on these reserved until 7 July.