ASIC permanently bans adviser over inappropriate SMSF advice
An adviser has received a permanent ban from providing financial services after ASIC surveillance found they had failed to act in the best interests of clients when advising them on SMSFs and property investment.
ASIC has permanently banned Perth-based adviser Phillip Emidio Bruni from providing financial services after surveillance it undertook found that Mr Bruni had been dishonest and engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct.
In a public statement, ASIC stated that Mr Bruni had retrospectively created advice documents and reproduced a client’s signature.
ASIC said it reviewed meta data from Mr Bruni’s advice documents and found that in response to statutory notices, Mr Bruni had created replicas of statements of advice documents that he was required by law to create and retain but had not.
“Additionally, Mr Bruni attempted to cover up his failure to obtain a signed ‘authority to proceed’ from a client. He copied and pasted his client’s signature from a ‘fact-find’ document, which outlines a client’s circumstances and needs, without the client’s consent or approval,” it stated.
“Mr Bruni did not tell his licensee or ASIC that the documents produced to ASIC were not copies of original documents. He only admitted to creating the replica documents and the ‘authority to proceed’ when questioned by ASIC.”
ASIC’s review also found that Mr Bruni had failed to give appropriate advice or provide advice documents to his clients. It also found he had failed to act in the best interests of his clients or to prioritise their interests.
“When providing advice, Mr Bruni did not objectively assess the information provided by his clients or tailor his recommendations to their circumstances,” it said.
“For example, in relation to property investment through an SMSF, Mr Bruni did not make adequate inquiries to assess if an SMSF was indeed appropriate or whether his client could undertake the role of an SMSF trustee.”
Additionally, ASIC said Mr Bruni could not demonstrate that he had investigated alternative products or strategies that could help his clients achieve their goals.
He also failed to provide information to his clients about the costs, benefits and consequences of his recommendations, which would have helped them make better informed decisions, it said.
ASIC Commissioner Danielle Press said that ASIC’s decision reflects its expectation that financial advisers uphold the attributes of honesty and professionalism in their work.
“Providing false evidence to ASIC under any circumstances is a breach of the law and will not be tolerated. ASIC expects advisers to adhere to the law at all times and meet their obligations of providing appropriate advice that is in the best interests of their clients,” said Ms Press.
Mr Bruni has the right to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of ASIC’s decision.
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 has also directed SMSF Adviser's print publication for several years.
Miranda also has broad business and financial services reporting experience, having written for titles including Investor Daily, ifa and Accountants Daily.