Permanent financial services ban after false evidence given to ASIC

Another financial adviser has been banned as part of ASIC’s Wealth Management Project, this time involving retrospectively creating advice documents, failing to act in the best interest of clients, and failing to give advice documents to clients.

ASIC announced that it has permanently banned Perth-based adviser Phillip Emidio Bruni from providing financial services, following surveillance of advice he provided when he was an authorised representative of Westpac and The Financiallink Group.

ASIC’s Wealth Management project focuses on the conduct of the six largest Australian financial advice licensees – NAB, Westpac, CBA, ANZ, Macquarie and AMP. ASIC says that it was notified of Mr Bruni’s conduct by Westpac.

“In the course of the surveillance, ASIC became aware that Mr Bruni had been dishonest and engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct including by retrospectively creating advice documents and reproducing a client’s signature,” said ASIC.

“ASIC 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.”

“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 says it also found that Mr Bruni had failed to provide advice documents to his clients, and failed to act in the best interest of his clients.

“When providing advice, Mr Bruni did not objectively assess the information provided by his clients or tailor his recommendations to their circumstances. 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, 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.”

ASIC notes that Mr Bruni can appeal its decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

ASIC Commissioner Danielle Press said: “ASIC’s decision reflects our 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.”

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