Adviser banned as ASIC continues BDBN document swoop
ASIC has permanently banned a former financial adviser for falsifying and backdating documents and falsely declaring to have witnessed signatures on death benefit nomination forms.
Ms Anneliese Ada Willmott, a former financial adviser from Victoria, has been permanently banned from providing financial services.
Ms Willmott is a director of Polaris Financial Services Pty Ltd and was an authorised representative of a Commonwealth Bank of Australia-owned financial planning firm, Financial Wisdom Limited, from 12 November 2015 until 10 August 2017.
In a public statement, ASIC said it found that Ms Willmott had engaged in dishonest, misleading and deceptive conduct by forging client signatures, using false documents and back-dating documents.
It also found that Ms Willmott had deleted records to conceal misconduct, falsely declared to have witnessed signatures on death benefit nomination forms and arranged for others to backdate and falsely witness these forms, and failed to provide statements of advice to clients.
ASIC’s investigation into Ms Willmott’s conduct followed notification from Financial Wisdom Limited.
Ms Willmott has the right to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of ASIC’s decision.
ASIC first issued a warning early last year that it had discovered widespread examples of improper and unethical practices in relation to death benefit nomination forms and that it would be closely monitoring this area.
The corporate regulator said that it had become aware of a common practice among financial advisers of witnessing or having staff members witness client signatures on binding death nomination forms without being in the presence of the signatory. In other cases, forms had been backdated.
Last week, Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers partner Clinton Jackson warned advisers that this would continue to be a major focus area for ASIC.
“There have been a few situations where [advisers] have gone back to the office and gotten 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, as it will draw attention from ASIC.
“You need to make sure you’ve got all the records at your end,” he said.
Miranda Brownlee is the deputy editor of SMSF Adviser, which is the leading source of news, strategy and educational content for professionals working in the SMSF sector.
Since joining the team in 2014, Miranda has been responsible for breaking some of the biggest superannuation stories in Australia, and has reported extensively on technical strategy and legislative updates.
Miranda also has broad business and financial services reporting experience, having written for titles including Investor Daily, ifa and Accountants Daily.