Dover Financial Advisers has been taken to task for an "Orwellian" liability policy that appears to be aimed at absolving the licensee of any responsibility relating to adviser misconduct.
Dover sole owner and responsible manager Terry McMaster appeared before the royal commission last on Thursday to face hostile questioning about his firm's 'client protection policy'.
The policy attracted the attention of ASIC before the royal commission hearings into financial advice began, prompting a name change to 'client information policy'.
Counsel assisting Mark Costello described the policy as “an elaborate attempt to exclude Dover’s liability for the acts of its authorised representatives”.
The policy makes clear that the licensee not be liable for anything a Dover adviser did which “is not within the authority” provided by the dealer group, which included failing to adequately research a product, consider clients’ personal circumstances, failing to adhere to the law, and more.
Mr Costello said the policy would be better titled the 'Dover protection policy'.
“The entire intention of this document is to minimise Dover’s liability for the work of its authorised representatives. That’s correct, isn’t it?” Mr Costello asked.
“As a sentence, that is correct,” Mr McMaster responded.
“Mr McMaster, I put it to you it is Orwellian to describe this as a client protection policy?”
“I agree with that. And this, of course, has been changed.”
Mr McMaster however debated Mr Costello’s point that this document was intended to protect Dover more so than its advisers’ clients and that complaints are to be “fought at all costs”.
Shortly before the scheduled end of proceedings, a source within the courtroom witnessed Mr McMaster physically collapse, prompting Commissioner Kenneth Hayne to call for paramedics.
Commissioner Hayne announced on Friday morning Mr McMaster had been excused from giving further evidence. Mr McMaster will have the option to give further evidence at a later date or instead make a submission to the royal commission.
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