AAT reduces adviser ban for false BDBN witnessing
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal has revised ASIC’s ban of a former adviser who had allegedly falsely witnessed binding death benefit nomination forms and backdated documents.
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has set aside a decision by ASIC to ban a former ANZ adviser, Lisa Lee, from providing financial services for eight years, reducing the ban to six years instead.
In an ASIC statement released in May this year, ASIC said Ms Lee had allegedly falsely witnessed binding nomination of beneficiary forms for 17 clients, backdated documents, and falsified a client’s signature on documents.
In his decision, tribunal member Rob Reitano determined that Ms Lee was not a fit and proper person to provide financial services.
“A person who pretends that the signature on an important document is someone else’s when it is their own signature is being dishonest. People of integrity do not falsify the signatures of others,” Mr Reitano stated.
“The fact that the conduct happened many times over two reasonably lengthy periods in 2013 and 2014 and again in 2016 and 2017 suggests that the conduct was not some momentary lapse or involved succumbing to some temporary or aberrant circumstance but rather appears to be something more significant than that.”
He acknowledged, however, that there had been no personal gain obtained or any proven financial loss, although the client’s wishes about who their beneficiaries would be were put at risk.
“That would, I think, put the conduct in the middle of the range of seriousness indicating between three and 10 years as an appropriate period rather than a period at the higher end of the range as was submitted by ASIC,” he stated.
“In the circumstances I consider that a ban for a period of six years from providing financial advice is an appropriate regulatory response that will give effect to the objectives of the act in promoting fairness, honesty and professionalism by those who provide financial services.”
ASIC first issued a warning in 2018 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.
In 2019, ASIC permanently banned a former financial adviser from Victoria after ASIC found they had 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.
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.