The corporate watchdog has launched action against an Australian super trustee, claiming that it promoted false and misleading statements about superannuation, insurance products and services.
ASIC has commenced action in the Federal Court in South Australia focused on the promotion of the MobiSuper Fund, a division of the Tidswell Master Superannuation Plan.
The action is against Tidswell Financial Services Ltd, an Australian financial services (AFS) licensee and superannuation trustee; MobiSuper Pty Limited (Mobi), the promoter of the MobiSuper Fund; Mobi’s AFS licensee ZIB Financial Pty Limited (ZIB); and Andrew Richard Grover, a director of Mobi and ZIB.
ASIC is concerned about potential harm to consumers if professional superannuation trustees fail to adequately monitor the activities of their promoters.
ASIC is concerned that Tidswell and ZIB failed to do all things necessary to ensure the financial services covered by their respective AFS licences were provided efficiently, honestly and fairly.
ASIC alleges that both Tidswell and ZIB failed to adequately monitor Mobi’s promotion of the fund through a purported “general advice model” that had insufficient regard for consumers’ best interests. Further, ASIC alleges false and misleading statements were made about superannuation, insurance products and services.
ASIC claims that Mobi offered an obligation-free “lost super” search to consumers through internet advertising campaigns with the primary objective to get consumers to join the fund and roll their other super balances into Mobi-promoted products.
ASIC further alleges that, in marketing telephone calls to consumers, Mobi customer service officers (CSOs) made misleading claims about fee savings and equivalent insurance cover if consumers joined the fund and provided personal advice that was not in consumers’ best interests.
ASIC is seeking civil penalties against:
Tidswell and ZIB for advice given to consumers by Mobi CSOs in breach of the best interest obligations;
Mobi and Mr Grover for the misleading internet advertising campaigns; and
Mobi for the false and misleading claims made by CSOs during marketing calls.
ASIC is also seeking various declarations, including under the Corporations Act that Tidswell and ZIB failed to comply with their obligations as AFS licensees and under the ASIC Act that Mobi engaged in (and Mr Grover was knowingly concerned in) misleading conduct.
This action has been taken following consultation and collaboration with APRA, which also has responsibility for regulating Tidswell under the SIS Act. APRA has supported ASIC with its investigation and has provided ASIC with a delegation of certain functions and powers under the SIS Act in relation to Tidswell in order to achieve appropriate regulatory outcomes.
The proceeding will be listed for case management on a date to be determined by the court.
Tidswell is a subsidiary of Sargon Capital Pty Ltd, which offers financial technology and infrastructure services including superannuation trustee services and responsible entity services.
Tidswell holds an extended public offer entity RSE licence under the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 (Cth) (SIS Act), which allows it to operate a professional trustee business. Tidswell also holds an AFS licence issued by ASIC. Tidswell partners with promoter companies to generate revenue by offering new superannuation products to consumers. Although Tidswell operates the superannuation fund, the promotion and marketing of the fund are undertaken by the promoter.
As trustee of the fund, Tidswell contracted Mobi to promote the fund to prospective members. Mobi provided financial services as an authorised representative of ZIB.
“ASIC and APRA work together to ensure that superannuation trustees such as Tidswell meet both their prudential and conduct obligations,” ASIC said in a statement.
“ASIC and APRA support innovation in superannuation and acknowledge the place of professional trustees in bringing new and innovative products to the market, provided this is done in a way that prioritises the best interests of members.
“APRA shares ASIC’s concerns and has engaged with ASIC during the investigation. ASIC will continue to consult with APRA in relation to the proceedings following the delegation of APRA’s powers. APRA fully supports ASIC in respect of action it takes to hold professional trustees to account for any potential harm to consumers caused by the conduct of their outsourced service providers.”
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