Document witnessing, property advice flagged as major focus areas for ASIC
With ASIC ramping up its attention on financial advice recently, an industry law firm has urged SMSF advisers to revise their practices in certain areas, particularly with document witnessing for binding nominations.
Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers partners Clinton Jackson and Scott Hay-Bartlem said that, following the royal commission and some of the behaviours emerging from it, ASIC has been cracking down on the financial planning industry, with a particular focus on certain areas.
Speaking at the Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers Annual Adviser Training Day and SMSF Conference, Mr Jackson said that one of the areas ASIC has been looking at is financial planners who have been witnessing documents, in particular binding nominations for super funds, when they weren’t actually there.
“There were a few situations where [advisers] were going back to the office and getting someone else in their office to be the second witness on a document, and obviously they weren’t there when the client signed,” he said.
Advisers need to be really careful that they’re not doing things like that, he said, which will draw attention from ASIC. They need to make sure they've got all the records on their end.
“What we tend to do when we witness these documents is have both parties in the room and also make a file note to say that, independently, I was there and I witnessed that and Scott would do the same thing,” he said.
“That way, if anyone comes to ask, there’s something contemporaneous that Scott signed saying, yes, he was there and there’s something that I did as well. So, just makes sure we cover off on that issue.”
Mr Hay-Bartlem said that the fact that property spruiking is still a big concern means that ASIC is also paying greater attention to licensing in general.
“There are concerns about spruikers getting individuals into a room and signing them up for contracts through to LRBAs and SMSFs and then settlement,” he said.
“So, ASIC is looking at this licensing area in terms of what advisers are doing and what property spruikers are doing.”