George

16-135MR South Australian director charged with misappropriating $1.8 million in SMSF property investments

Following an ASIC investigation, Mr George John Nowak has appeared in the Adelaide Magistrates Court charged with thirty one counts of deception and one count of dishonest dealings with documents.

ASIC investigated Mr Nowak's conduct in dealing with members of self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) who were undertaking property purchases offered by companies of which he was a director, including EJ Property Developments Pty Ltd. It is alleged that Mr Nowak misappropriated $1.8 million in SMSF monies by not holding funds in a designated account and by not applying those funds towards the intended property purchase.

Mr Nowak was not required to enter a plea and was granted conditional bail. The matter is listed for return at the Adelaide Magistrates Court on 12 July 2016. 

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions is prosecuting these matters.

Background

The charges of deception contrary to section 139(b) of the SA Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 each carry a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment.

The charge of dishonest dealings with documents contrary to section 140 of the SA Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 carries a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment.

Previous media releases in relation to this matter incude 14-024MR and 15-048MR.

In 2012 in response to the growth in SMSFs, ASIC established the SMSF Taskforce. The Taskforce continues to meet regularly to examine high-risk and emerging SMSF issues such as property spruiking to SMSFs, unlicensed conduct and false and misleading advertising of SMSFs. 

Outcomes and actions stemming from the SMSF Taskforce include:

  • ASIC accepted an enforceable undertaking (EU) from CMH Financial Group Pty Ltd and the sole director, Daniel White, after an ASIC surveillance found CMH had failed to provide advice about self-managed superannuation funds that was appropriate and in the best interests of clients (refer 16-097MR);
  • Ms Sarah Jane Busteed was charged with three counts of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception and one count of dealing with over $100,000 that was the proceeds of crime (refer: 16-040MR);
  • Superannuation Warehouse Australia Pty Ltd was ordered to pay a penalty of $25,000 for false and misleading“Free SMSF Setup” advertising (refer: 15-332MR).
  • The Supreme Court of NSW found Park Trent Properties Group Pty Ltd had been unlawfully carrying on a financial services business for over 5 years by providing advice to clients to purchase investment properties through a SMSF (refer: 15-300MR).
  • Dixon Advisory Group Limited complied with two ASIC infringement notices, paying two $10,200 penalties after including potentially misleading claims on its website (refer: 15-207MR).
  • The credit licence of Queensland-based Smithson & Baye was cancelled following an investigation into a property and SMSF promoting group (refer: 15-228MR)
  • ASIC released two information sheets to improve the quality of advice provided by advisers onSMSFs: Information Sheet 205 Advice on self-managed superannuation funds: Disclosure of risks(INFO 205) and Information Sheet 206 Advice on self-managed superannuation funds: Disclosure of costs (INFO 206) (refer 15-192MR).
  • Omniwealth Services paid a $10,200 penalty for potentially misleading claims on its website (refer: 15-190MR).
  • The principal of Sherwin Financial Planners, Bradley Thomas Sherwin, was charged with fraud. The charges relate to the use of SMSFs of former clients of Sherwin Financial Planners (refer: 15-158MR).
  • The Federal Court of Australia ruled that Craig Gore and several other parties and financial services businesses, including Queensland-based ActiveSuper and Royale Capital, contravened sections of the Corporations Act or were knowingly concerned in those contraventions. (refer: 15-134MR)
  • Australian Financial Planning Solutions Pty Ltd paid $10,200 in penalties for potentially misleading SMSF ads (refer: 15-052MR).
  • ASIC banned the founder of the Charterhill Group of Companies, George Nowak, from providing financial services until 3 July 2017 on the basis that Mr Nowak is an undischarged bankrupt (refer: 15-048MR).
  • Interprac Financial Planning agreed to address ASIC concerns relating to advice provided to some clients about SMSFs (refer: 14-258MR).
  • Sentry Financial Services agreed to address ASIC concerns about SMSF advice provided to clients (refer: 14-109MR).
  • SuperHelp Australia paid a $10,200 penalty after making potentially misleading statements about the cost of setting up SMSF (refer: 14-051MR).
  • Media Super paid $10,200 in penalties for potentially misleading SMSF ads (refer: 14-001MR).
  • Spring Financial Group entered into an enforceable undertaking following ASIC concerns about the level of monitoring and supervision of its representatives (refer: 13-263MR).
  • Anne Street Partners agreed to engage an independent expert following ASIC concerns about SMSF advice provided to clients (refer: 13-248MR).
  • We published Report 337 Improving the quality of advice given to SMSF investors. (refer: 13-081MR).

SMSFs will continue to be a focus in ASICs enforcement work.

Editor's note 1:

On 12 July 2016, declarations were filed at the Adelaide Magistrates Court. The matter was listed for return on 22 September 2016 in the Adelaide Magistrates Court for Mr Nowak to enter a plea.

Editor's note 2:

On 22 September 2016, the matter was adjourned until 13 October 2016.

Editor's note 3:

On 13 October 2016, the matter was adjourned until 10 November 2016.

Editor's note 4:

The matter has been further adjourned until 19 January 2017.

16-377MR ASIC permanently bans Brisbane financial adviser

ASIC has permanently banned Mr George Karakatsanis, of Yeronga, Queensland from providing any financial services.  ASIC found that he engaged in conduct that was misleading and deceptive whilst recommending clients invest in unsecured fixed interest notes in Protect Ensure. ASIC also found he failed to comply with financial services laws.

Mr Karakatsanis has been an authorised representative of various Australian Financial Services Licencees since 2003.  Between 16 July 2012 to 22 May 2014 Mr Karkatsanis was an Authorised Representative of Protect Ensure Pty Ltd.  

ASIC found that Mr Karakatsanis:

  • engaged in conduct that was false and misleading by making false statements about the features of financial products that were likely to induce clients to acquire the products;
  • deliberately misled clients so that they did not understand the basic features of the financial products he was recommending they invest in;
  • engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by failing to properly disclose that investor funds were being invested in Protect Ensure and thus constituting a direct conflict of interest;
  • failed to act in his clients' best interests by failing to disclosure this conflict of interest;
  • failed to act in his clients' best interests by ignoring their circumstances, objectives, financial situations and needs when recommending they invest in Protect Ensure;
  • failed to give provide appropriate advice; and
  • failed to provide Statements of Advice.

Subsequently, partly due to Mr Karakatsanis' conduct, clients' funds were used improperly, such as to pay Protect Ensure's business related expenses. As a result, some investors lost their invested funds entirely.

ASIC has determined that Mr Karakatsanis is not of good fame and character, making him an unsuitable person to provide financial services. 

'Mr Karakatsanis's conduct falls far short of the high standards expected of those in the financial services industry. ASIC will continue to protect consumers from advisors who engage in misleading conduct and place their interests above those of their client.'  ASIC Deputy Chairman Peter Kell said.

Mr Karakatsanis has the right to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of ASIC's decision.

Background

On 15 December 2014, ASIC cancelled the AFS Licence of Protect Ensure as a result of Protect Ensure not having adequate financial resources to provide the services covered by the Licence and to carry out supervisory arrangements as required by s912A(1)(d) of the Corporations Act. (refer: 14-338MR).

Protect Ensure was placed into liquidation on 12 June 2015.

On 30 June 2015, ASIC permanently banned Mr Lee Robert Robin, of Camp Hill, Queensland from providing any financial services.  ASIC found that he engaged in conduct that was misleading or deceptive whilst issuing unsecured fixed interest notes in Protect Ensure. (refer: 15-161MR).

 
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