Former SMSF adviser hit with permanent ban
ASIC has banned a former Sydney financial adviser after being sentenced for misappropriating almost $3 million from clients’ self-managed superannuation funds.
ASIC has permanently banned former financial adviser Ross Andrew Hopkins from providing financial services or from controlling an entity carrying on a financial services business.
Mr Hopkins was a financial adviser and sole director of QWL in Sydney. QWL and Mr Hopkins provided clients with financial advice including dealing in securities and advising on SMSFs.
In May 2021, Mr Hopkins was convicted of 15 dishonesty offences and sentenced to six years imprisonment with a non-parole period of four years.
“ASIC found that between October 2016 and October 2019, Mr Hopkins made 167 unauthorised transfers, impacting 13 SMSF clients, totalling $2,938,750 and used the stolen funds for personal purposes,” ASIC stated.
“Mr Hopkins also made false representations to third parties regarding the nature of the unauthorised transfers to conceal his dishonest conduct and avoid detection.”
ASIC also found Mr Hopkins took advantage of the trust placed in him by his clients and determined a permanent banning of Mr Hopkins was appropriate because of the seriousness of the misconduct and the need to prevent future harm to financial consumers.
Mr Hopkins has the right to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of ASIC’s decision.
Mr Hopkins’ banning will be recorded on ASIC’s publicly available Financial Advisers Register and the Banned and Disqualified Persons Register.
Over a period of nearly three years, Mr Hopkins misappropriated approximately $2.9 million of his clients’ funds without their knowledge.
Court documents revealed Mr Hopkins used his clients’ funds for his own benefit, such as holidays, rent, paying his own credit card debts, and repaying personal loans.
The regulator found Mr Hopkins had almost complete control of his clients’ superannuation which allowed him to transact on their accounts.
QWL, which has held an Australian financial services licence since 1 January 2004, provided QWL clients with financial advice including dealing in securities and advising on SMSFs.
ASIC’s investigation into Mr Hopkins and QWL commenced in 2019 in response to allegations that QWL had failed to assist the Australian Financial Complaints Authority in resolving client complaints.
On 4 November 2019, ASIC obtained orders and undertakings restraining Mr Hopkins and QWL from dissipating assets or providing financial services to clients.
On 18 November 2019, ASIC obtained an extension of those orders until 25 May 2020, with a further extension obtained until 23 November 2020.
On 19 March 2021, ASIC, with Mr Hopkins’ and QWL’s consent, obtained an additional extension of the financial services restraint orders against Mr Hopkins and QWL until 27 September 2021, with a directions hearing listed for 20 September 2021 at the Supreme Court of New South Wales.