Former Head of Operations of collapsed stockbroking firm BBY Limited (BBY), Fiona Mae Bilton, from Victoria, has been sentenced following her plea of guilty to three charges of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage contrary to s 82(1) Crimes Act 1958 (Vic).
Ms Bilton received a sentence of imprisonment of 20 months, which was suspended for three years on the first charge. The Court imposed a community correction order for three and a half years on the second and third charges, including 380 hours of unpaid community work.
Between June 2013 and May 2015, Ms Bilton deceived St George Bank (St George) regarding the amount of BBY’s unsettled equities trades for the benefit of the company. In doing so, Ms Bilton claimed additional funding from an overdraft facility for BBY on 115 separate occasions.
Ms Bilton, with the alleged involvement of others at BBY, sent false summaries of unsettled client contracts to St George to support the requests for additional funding from its overdraft facility.
Ms Bilton claimed the additional funding on behalf of BBY, even though she was aware that BBY was not entitled, to:
- draw down $4,394,962 on 28 June 2013 (which was repaid the following day),
- draw down of an average of $3.53 million per day in the period mid-November 2014 to February 2015 (which was repaid the following day); and
- retain the additional funding from its overdraft facility during the period March to May 2015 of an average daily amount of $2.67 million.
Ms Bilton’s final claim on 6 May 2015 in the amount of $3,376,417 was unpaid and formed part of the claim by St George upon BBY in liquidation.
When handing down the sentence, His Honour Judge Doyle remarked that Ms Bilton’s conduct involved serious offending and the obtaining of an extremely large financial advantage for BBY, and masked the risk of lending from St George.
His Honour further remarked that the circumstances of this particular matter were highly unusual and exceptional and but for these circumstances, a lengthy term of imprisonment would have been imposed. The sentence took into account mitigating factors, including the significant admissions Ms Bilton made early in ASIC’s investigation and her plea of guilty at the earliest opportunity.
As a result of her dishonesty-based convictions, Ms Bilton will be automatically disqualified from managing corporations for five years and will be unable to be involved in the business of a market participant in connection with securities and futures markets.
The matter was prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions after a referral by ASIC.
Offences contrary to s 82(1) of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) carry a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. Given the number and nature of Ms Bilton’s offences, Ms Bilton was sentenced as a ‘continuing criminal enterprise offender’ under the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic), such that the maximum penalty for each offence pursuant to s 82(1) of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) was 20 years’ imprisonment.
On 25 October 2022, Ms Bilton pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court to three counts of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage contrary to subsection 82(1) of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) (22-251MR).
BBY was a former stockbroking and financial services business. It was placed into voluntary administration on 17 May 2015 and in liquidation on 22 June 2015 with significant client shortfalls. St George Bank was a secured creditor of BBY and appointed receivers and managers on 18 May 2015.
ASIC suspended BBY’s AFS licence in May 2015. That suspension remained in place until its licence was cancelled in June 2021.
ASIC’s investigation into BBY is ongoing.