A court-enforceable undertaking accepted by ASIC has banned an accountant from providing financial services for three years, after she was found to not be acting in clients’ best interests.
Gold Coast accountant Jenan Oslem Thorne, of Saber Superannuation Pty Ltd, was found by the financial services regulator to have placed her own interests ahead of those of her clients, by recommending they established self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) without taking their personal circumstances into account.
During an investigation into Park Trent Properties Group Pty Ltd, a privately owned real estate investment company, ASIC discovered that Mrs Thorne had been receiving referrals from the company for the creation of SMSFs, and decided to look more closely into the advice she had given clients, ASIC said in a public statement.
It also reviewed the advice she had provided to clients while she worked at SMSF Advice Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of AMP Limited.
ASIC determined that Mrs Thorne had failed in meeting her duty to some of those clients in a number of respects, including by:
- Recommending SMSFs be established while excluding retirement and insurance planning.
- Not properly considering the clients’ existing super arrangements.
- Not examining why clients wanted to invest in residential property through an SMSF.
- Not properly stress-testing SMSF strategies.
- Recommending SMSFs be established without adequate evidence to determine they would deliver better retirement outcomes for those clients.
- Recommending her own accounting practice to prepare the annual reports and tax returns.
“This led ASIC to determine that Mrs Thorne recommended the services of a related party to create extra revenue for herself,” ASIC said.
“ASIC expects financial advisers to comply with their best interests duty and pay particular attention to how they scope their advice to clients.
“Prior to recommending SMSFs, advisers should critically probe why a client wants to set up an SMSF and what they hope to achieve. Advisers should also give adequate consideration to risk management and succession planning before setting up an SMSF for a client.”
Commissioner Danielle Press said that financial advisers are legally obligated to provide advice that is in their clients’ best interests, even where they are simply following client instructions.
“Consumers need to know that managing your own super is a major commitment that can be expensive and involve significant time and effort. SMSFs are not for everyone. Consumers should consider their personal circumstances carefully before deciding to establish an SMSF,” Ms Press said.
The three-year ban took effect from 13 February 2019.
Saber Superannuation has been contacted for comment.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.