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Monday 19 September 2022

22-256MR Dixon Advisory penalised $7.2 million for breaches of best interest obligations

The Federal Court has imposed a $7.2 million penalty on Dixon Advisory and Superannuation Services Limited (Dixon Advisory) after six representatives failed to act in their clients’ best interests and failed to provide advice appropriate to their clients’ circumstances.  

ASIC Deputy Chair Sarah Court saidLicensees need to ensure their representatives are taking into account their clients’ specific needs and circumstances. Advice that fails to reflect client circumstances − or advice models that lead to one-size-fits-all outcomes – are less likely to meet best interest duty obligations and can expose clients to a risk of capital loss.’ 

The Court found that on 53 occasions between October 2015 and May 2019, Dixon Advisory was the responsible licensee of six representatives who did not act in the best interests of eight clients when they advised these clients to acquire, roll-over or retain interests in the US Masters Residential Property Fund (URF) and URF-related products. 

The Court found Dixon Advisory representatives did not conduct a reasonable investigation of the clients’ circumstances before providing the advice. In some cases, this inappropriate advice resulted in the client’s self-managed superannuation fund being insufficiently diversified and exposed to risk of capital loss. 

In handing down judgment, Justice McEvoy remarked, ‘There is no evidence that the (Dixon Advisory) representatives conducted the necessary reasonable investigations into the recommended financial products or any alternative financial products, nor is there evidence that they considered the personal circumstances of the clients.  

‘The contraventions were not the result of isolated or unauthorised conduct of the representatives. Six representatives committed the contraventions over a period spanning some three and a half years.’ 

The Court also ordered that if Dixon Advisory, currently in voluntary administration, resumes providing financial services, Dixon Advisory must have in place appropriate systems, policies and procedures to ensure its representatives act in the best interests of clients.  

Dixon Advisory was also ordered to pay ASIC’s legal costs of $800,000. 

Download 

Judgment

Background 

ASIC commenced proceedings in September 2020 (20-207MR), and on 8 July 2021, ASIC and Dixon Advisory entered into a heads of agreement to resolve ASIC’s civil penalty proceedings. Dixon Advisory admitted to a number of allegations on 15 October 2021. 

The URF is an ASX-listed property fund established in 2011 to give investors exposure to the US residential property market, by investing in residential property in the New York metropolitan area. The URF was established by Dixon Advisory. 

On 19 January 2022, Dixon Advisory was placed in voluntary administration.  

On 19 April 2022, ASIC suspended the Australian Financial Services licence of Dixon Advisory subject to certain conditions. (22-094MR).   

The administrators for Dixon Advisory provided written consent for the proceeding to continue and did not oppose the orders being sought by ASIC. 

Former clients of Dixon Advisory may be eligible for compensation under a potential future Compensation Scheme of Last Resort (CSLR) but will need to take action as soon as possible (22-205MR). 

Former clients who believe they have suffered loss as a result of the misconduct of Dixon Advisory and/or their former Dixon Advisory financial adviser should make a complaint to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA). Lodging a complaint with AFCA is a necessary step for clients to preserve their possible eligibility under a potential future CSLR. 

If a former client of Dixon Advisory has already lodged their complaint with AFCA there is no need for them to do anything further at this time. 

Last updated: 19/09/2022 02:47