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BFCSA investigates fraud involving lenders, spruikers and financial planners worldwide.  Full Doc, Low Doc, No Doc loans, Lines of Credit and Buffer loans appear to be normal profit making financial products, however, these loans are set to implode within seven years.  For the past two decades, Ms Brailey, President of BFCSA (Inc), has been a tireless campaigner, championing the cause of older and low income people around the Globe who have fallen victim to banking and finance scams.  She has found that people of all ages are being targeted by Bankers offering faulty lending products. BFCSA warn that anyone who has signed up for one of these financial products, is in grave danger of losing their home.

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BFCSA: STERLING GROUP - ASIC FIASCO Letter to Shipton - angry Victims

Posted by on in ROYAL COMMISSION URGENT
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25th June 2016

 

Mr James SHIPTON

Chairman of Australian Securities & Investments Commission,

120 Collins St,

Melbourne VIC 3000

 

Dear Mr Shipton,

 

The Collapse of the STERLING LIFE GROUP –

A Failure of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.

 

Retirees’ reasonable Demand for Compensation from ASIC of $26 million within 8 weeks.

ASIC to publicly explain their four-year regulatory negligence in this matter.

 

ASIC knew of the likelihood of failure of The Sterling Group as early as 2015. ASIC databases would have alerted investigators to previous company collapses and breaches of the Corporation Law.   ASIC failed to take appropriate action in 2007 and again in 2015. ASIC failed to protect vulnerable and older consumers by issuing early vital warnings of catastrophic financial loss and by delaying stop orders.

Consumers affected by the inevitable and predictable collapse of Sterling Group are now saying ‘enough is enough’ when it comes to Consumer Protection.  ASIC Commissioners were fully briefed on Ponzi Structures and risks in the corporate sector in 2001. ASIC has been willfully negligent in the mishandling of this four-year investigation.

 The compensatory funds for losses are to be paid into a nominated Solicitor’s Trust account of the people’s choice, within 8 weeks.  ASIC’s performance bonuses ought to be placed on hold until the Government can assure the Australian people that the Federal Regulator is even capable of handling Consumer Protection in a meaningful and properly structured manner.

 By Westpoint standards ($680 million in losses), the Sterling Life ($26 million) collapse is a minor occurrence, yet the pain of loss for all retirees who are suffering certain financial ruin, is the same. ASIC immediately noticed that one of the key advisers in the SNL collapse was also present in the Westpoint debacle.  It appears no proper investigation ever took place.  Consistent with ASIC’s approach for over two decades, ASIC allowed older persons to be preyed upon and left them unprotected from known offenders.  ASIC then waits until the inevitable and foreseeable collapse is made public by the media. 

 ASIC has adopted a reactive approach rather than one of enforcement of law after rigid protective intense investigations.

For two decades, Australian retirees and pensioners have been targeted and stripped of their assets and cash, until they are left completely dependent upon the Government for Centrelink assistance. For ASIC to dismiss calls for assistance from the most vulnerable people in our community is Australia’s own brand of shame. ASIC’s failure has been noted in Parliament for over two decades with multiple collapses becoming a regular occurrence and national disgrace.

 ASIC has databases, files bulging with evidence of RED FLAGS relating to Ponzi Structures and bad conduct in the Corporate Sector.  The Federal regulator has been treating victims of white-collar crime with disdain as though consumers were a public nuisance.  Meanwhile, ASIC permits the perpetrators to immediately register new companies and set up new Ponzi structures, continuing much the same as they did in 1999.  The same names pop up, time and again.

 Australians are fed up with consumer neglect and lack of protection instead of sensible proactive methods of corporate policing. As a nation, Australian consumers do not need a $450 million “monitor” to simply observe the chaos around them. They demand action.  Justice must be seen to be done. Often, I have conducted research and investigations and sent in my investigative work to ASIC in an attempt to have charges laid against the alleged felons.  In many meetings with Commissioners over 20 years I continue to say: “This is not my job.”

ASIC continues its pretence of sham investigations, producing incredibly naïve and unsatisfactory outcomes for consumers.  How does the theft of hundreds of billions of dollars from older Australians, assist our economy? 

ASIC’s ridiculous decision making has been the direct cause of so much pain and suffering by older Australians and they are understandably FED UP.  ASIC has an arsenal of evidence against the cast of characters involved in Sterling Life Group, dating back to 2001.  ASIC had a duty to take action years ago and failed every consumer caught in this latest round of collapses.

ASIC has failed to consider the devastating effects of financial ruin.  Lack of Consumer Protection can cause greater harm to the general economy.  Asset-stripping has become a national sport. It is the victims of Sterling Life Group that have banded together and are now asking: Why does ASIC exist? 

 

A well-known journalist asked in his own 1996 article: “What does ASC really Do?”

On that basis, ASIC needs to start taking responsibility for its own criminal negligence. Sitting on vital information for years, that has the potential to prevent financial loss and ruin, is a despicable and negligent act of treachery. 

What sort of person would do that?  Would allow such a monstrous thing to take place?  As a nation we are judged by how we treat or mistreat our elderly citizens.

 ASIC should seriously consider meeting these serious demands for compensation as quickly as possible.    

The Sterling Victims demands for $26 million in compensation is specifically due to the Federal regulatory neglect of the following obligations :-

 

·        ASIC’s statutory duty of enforcement of law at the point of start-up.

·        Failure to identify breaches of Corporations Law in 2001, 2007 and again in 2015;

·        Failure to identify the nature of the historically documented risks due to known corporate collapses by the Sterling Group’s “cast of characters.”

·        Failure to warn likely vulnerable potential customers of known risks with the same directors and associated lawyers.

·        Failure to have concerns for vulnerable older persons financial well-being.

·        Failure to identify unsafe practices by those involved with Sterling Life and previous collapsed companies.

·        Failure to identify and act upon the concern that older people were the Target Market. An abhorrence in anyone’s language.

·        Failure to identify from the original Information Memorandum: Sterling Life’s “target market.”

·        Failure to have strict regard to the history of previous collapses as shown in ASIC’s own databases.

·        Failure to allow vulnerable people ‘free accesses to the databases, prior to signing any type of contract put forward by known risky operators.

·        Failure to identify the “Rent for Life Model” as a specific risk to the Australian Economy as defined by the SEC.

·        Failure to identify the dangers of health, stroke and possible death of any retirees and pensioners enticed into such a scheme.

·        Failure to seek out potential and harmful advertisements and the distribution of Information Memorandums the cause of which was highlighted 15 July 2001 and causing the $680 million Westpoint collapse of December 2005.

·        Failure to act on realisation that companies were inviting share “investments” sold as but not registered on the stock exchange as portrayed in brochures.

·        Failure to act on early information from the state authority Department of Mines and Consumer Protection, of the Breaches of The Tenancy Act – a key plank in the “sales spiel”  utilised by SNL Group.

·        Failure to recognise the Ponzi structure as has occurred on far too many previous occasions and evidenced by “rolling over” of unpaid debts and cross-pollinated ventures into more “dubious shares” contractual arrangements.

·        Failure to report those responsible to the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions.

 

 Had I been head of ASIC. These failures would not have happened under my watch. To lose a few dollars is one thing,  yet to be targeted and financially ruined by rogue operators is evidence of an abomination permitted by a tired and worn out regulatory system.  

 The victims of these scams are decent hard-working Australians who have been wiped out of every dollar of savings, as has occurred time and again in Australia in the past two decades. In excess of $100 billion of losses or more over the past two decades is every reason why the Australian Securities and Investment Commission has become a monolith of uselessness and does not have the support of those it is supposed to protect.

 

May I remind you Mr Chairman, ASICs specific responsibilities are three-fold:

 

1:        Protect the Markets and thus prevent financial danger to the economy.

2:        Ensure Corporate behaviour/conduct is in keeping with best practice, breaches identified and appropriately dealt with to protect those markets.

3:        Consumer Protection to maintain financial stability and above all confidence in the regulatory system.

 

The $450 million budget granted to ASIC each year would prompt most Australians to say: “We are not getting our monies worth.”

 

May I suggest, that if ASIC placed Consumer Protection at the top of the list as a key plank in enforcement of law, the rest would fall into place including threats to the economy.

 

Government Policy of ‘Buyer Beware’ is an abject failure, however, that does not excuse ASIC’s neglect as the intention has been for decades that the Australian federal regulatory authority would be autonomous as indeed, ASIC Commissioners have argued in Parliament from time to time.

 

ASIC knew of the dangers of loss within the Sterling Group of Companies in 2015 – ASIC permitted these companies to be registered and understood the potential danger highlighted by State Consumer Protection authority.

 

·        Breaches – State – Tenancy Act - Leases not Registered -

·        Breaches – Federal – Owners 40-year contracts re Leases for Life unsecured.

·       Breaches of Corporations Act -  Unconscionable, False and Misleading,

      a sting like operation with a PONZI structure.

·        Breaches of the ASX covenants. – products touted falsely as listed on the stock exchange

·        Raising capital from older persons with all the gloss and none of the risks explained.

·        The use of Information Memorandums touted as “prospectuses.”

·        Mishandling of money in a Ponzi Structure. Driven by Unconscionable Conduct

·        Cross pollination of funds and the obvious breach: intention to deceive at every turn.

 

The overall intention seems to be once again: raise other people’s assets and funds with little or no regard for Australian Law. That Consumers are left to take all the risks due to the structure of the Group.  A clever and experienced investigator would have been able to spot the danger within two weeks.

 

The highlighted regulatory neglect of the STERLING LIFE disaster now raises even further questions, from those most affected with loss, who are now deserving of immediate explanations and answers.  Excuses are not acceptable.

 Q: How much did Directors invest of their own personal funds?

2.     Q: Have Passports been seized? If so, on what date?  If not, WHY NOT?

3.     Q: On what date did ASIC notify APRA of Banking irregularities?

4.     Q: On what date did ASIC notify ACCC of obvious False and Misleading advertising?

5.     Q: On which date did ASIC realise the companies being registered by certain directors had RED FLAGS in terms of past collapses? 

6.     Q: What action was taken to ensure the safety of others?  And on what DATEs?

7.     Q: Why did ASIC NOT take action against Armstrong Jones directors after the 2015 collapse?

8.     Q: What were the Armstrong Losses?     The # of people whose lives were ruined?

9.     Q: How many other companies in Rent for Life 40-year Leases are in existence in Australia?

10.Q: Why didn’t ASIC warn that Retirees were being targeted via advertisements in the local papers?

11.Q: Why did ASIC fail to publicly warn people selling their homes – they were being targeted by SNL?

12.Q: Has the PM and/or Treasurer been notified of this Lease for Life scam and if so, on what date and what was their response?

13.Q: Were the 2016 regulatory concerns re Sterling Life discussed with the Federal Treasurer and or Treasury staff?

14.Q: Is there any justification of why these known scandals, involving huge retiree losses and miseries, be hidden?


Your predecessor Greg Medcraft publicly stated in Nov 2017: “Australia is the White-Collar Crime capital of the world.“

 

ASIC needs to show ‘Just Cause’ as to why the regulatory officers/investigators should not be charged with Regulatory Negligence in their failed approach to Consumer Protection.

 ASIC may not be willing to refer to this model as being a PONZI STRUCURE or use the description of “grand theft” yet:  Owners, Tenants, Investors and Shareholders have been stripped of their cash assets, in a matter of months after start-up.  All companies were registered with ASIC.  ASIC has once again shown it is permanently “asleep at the wheel.”  Other Owners have been left with shocking debts, expected to rise to approximately $26 million.

 I am aware that in August 2018, ASIC did a rather startling “door knock” using a modicum of effort.  Without appointment, ASIC used the tenant lists to arrive at the homes of Sterling Life customers and ask: “is everything OK?”  Naturally the 10-20 people spoken to at the time, had little idea their life savings had already been placed at extreme risk, and responded predictably: “everything seems ok.”  Such is the level of ASIC’s “intelligence.”  No doubt this reconnaissance exercise was discussed with the Federal Treasurer.

 

Elderly health Issues

Some of these older citizens have very serious health issues and such losses for monies they have worked a lifetime to accumulate, to be stolen with the blessing of the regulator has stirred up an anger towards everyone responsible for mishandling consumer protection.   There appears to be evidence of criminal intent.  ASIC did not even bother to turn up to the recent round of creditors meetings, nor the 21st June meeting arranged by the victims. 

 

Q: When will ASIC be likely to compensate all victims: Owners, Investors, Tenants and Shareholders whose funds had been rolled over?

 

The sooner the better –

8 weeks would be more than sufficient time to make a decent yet significant decision.

 

The Australian Federal Government has a massive homelessness problem. Perhaps the Federal Government can take over these homes and release the owners from their own debt obligations if they chose?  Compensation is easily engineered in such a way to be orderly, expedient to compensate owners and tenants and any others involved who have suffered loss.

 

Should ASIC refuse to compensate the victims of the STERLING LIFE GROUP, I suggest they ask the Banks involved to conduct an immediate whip-a-round and assist ASIC as they did in 2018, with $127 million in petty cash. Furthermore, as the number of claims rise, and more people come forward, compensation must reflect the total losses finally uncovered.

 

What type of Nation are we; that we would leave retirees vulnerable to the ravages of white-collar crime and known predators?

 Vulnerable retirees have been a major target since 1996. For too long Australians have been left unprotected.  ASIC has known the identity of key players actively involved in white-collar crime sprees and a magnificent string of collapses.  For the past 22 years – these characters are made up of developers, property guru’s, spruikers, financial advisers, bankers and lawyers.  One of the players reportedly sailed on his private yacht over to Greece.

 

Our Economy has become dangerously dependent on profits from an over-bloated property market which encourages fraud, deceit, unconscionable conduct and immense misery and loss by those caught in these white-collar scandals.

 

ASIC’s track record of criminal neglect can no longer be tolerated.

 

Patterns of neglect demonstrate a disgraceful history of an intended and wilful lack of consumer protection activity and is a big BLOT on the record of the Regulator including the 2014 Inquiry into the regulator’s own uselessness. Thousands of public submissions have been sent to Federal Parliament and Senate Committees.

Despite these Parliamentary Probes, why has our LAZY ‘consumer protector’ permitted two decades of pillaging and plundering of older persons assets?   It is an outrage in anyone’s language.  These huge losses are showing the rest of the world: ”Come Down Under and Plunder”…………. Our Federal Government says it’s OK.

I refer to my well documented notes, letters, 000’s of documents, reports to Parliament and to ASIC Chairmen 1998 – 2013.    In 2001 I investigated and reported Westpoint to ASIC and warned “this will be the biggest. ASIC ignored my work and permitted Westpoint to grow from $100 million potential loss to the end result of $680 million by 2005. Who took responsibility?  No-one!

In 2005 I named at least 20 Ponzi Structures due to collapse.  ASIC admitted to me there were likely to be 1000.  By 2007 hundreds of companies were named by Chairman D’Aloisio as being of concern to vulnerable older people.  Parliamentarians have sent numerous complaint letters to ASIC and noted first-hand their failures.

 

Australia, with 16 million adult population, can no longer afford an over-bloated and useless regulator.  ASIC has not even been capable of showing it can be a tough Corporate Cop on the beat.  Cartoons have suggested “Keystone Kops.” Consumer Protection has been trashed and why I have had to call yet again:  another meeting of aggrieved older people.

In 1999, I wrote five letters to the Prime Minister and asked the vital Q: “How does this widespread criminal activity of Ponzi fund raising, assist the Australian Economy? ” 

In 2005, Senator Coonan admitted: “ASIC has plenty of powers.”  Problem is they do not use those powers. Every Australian Retiree and Pensioner are entitled to be warned in advance of ASIC’s concerns. ASIC has permitted the money for paying for costly liquidations must come from the aggrieved creditors?  How is that fair when there is a negligent regulator at the helm, making these unconscionable decisions?

 

Sterling Life has created a dire situation for at least 100 families, in just four short years. 

 At a Sterling Group meeting of victims last Friday 21st June, I asked the important question: “how many of you were taken in, after January 2015?”  Everyone raised their hands.  In fact, many of those present were signed up in 2018,  a few people were signed up in 2019.  ASIC is incapable of even being sorry for the damage its gross negligence has caused to decent Australians.  It’s a deplorable situation and can no longer be tolerated.

 

ASIC reports all major issues of grave concern regarding Consumer Protection to the Treasurer in monthly meetings. 

I would like to be notified of all notes and  minutes of those meetings during the past two decades” documented conversations between Treasury and ASIC, particularly relating to STERLING LIFE and its 11 subsidiary and linked entities.

 

If that evidence is not handed over to the Sterling Life Victims within the next month, we will be calling for a long overdue Royal Commission into ASIC. The 2014 Inquiry into ASIC barely scratched the surface of its continual failure to protect consumers and their assets.

 

Australia is desperately in need of an overzealous Corporations Cop on the beat.   The pain and suffering by these people to suggest there is “ZERO” money left, is shocking. The Tenants paid an average $250,000 for 40 years of rent in advance and those funds were supposed to be in a “Trust Account.”  They were spruiked and sold on the fear tactic, that moving into Retirement Villages were fraught with risk and very costly. The Lease for Life Plan (created in the United States), would mean security and peace of mind.”  Everything was a lie.

 

Losses experienced by the Sterling Life Group, and all those affected: are deserving of compensation paid for by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.  ASIC must accept responsibility and ensure that a cheque for $26 million be made available for distribution via a Law Firm’s trust account – chosen by the committee of those affected.

 We expect that due to the urgency of older investors left without income,  owners being unable to pay their mortgage commitments, and the elderly tenants unable to pay rent as per the Sterling contracts and the funds being stolen,  that ASIC develops a speedy resolution,  in a doable time frame of no more than eight weeks.  There are at least two very sick individuals who have months to live.

For this reason, we have united all victims under one banner.  No matter the legal issues regarding Sterling and its Administrators, this payment is a one-off situation to cover the losses caused directly by ASIC’s failures and wilful negligence.

 We would hope common sense prevails in this appalling yet highly preventable situation.  Delay in decision-making will only further prolong the agony for those suffering such horrendous loss and the potential for homelessness within weeks.

 

Please give this serious matter your utmost and immediate attention.

Yours sincerely,

 

Ms Denise L Brailey

 

  

Denise L Brailey

 

President of BFCSA (Inc) BPolSc, BLS, BaCrim, Adv Dip Accting.

Banking and Finance Consumers Support Association (Inc)

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