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Terms of reference
On 23 June 2011, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and
Financial Services resolved to inquire into the collapse of Trio Capital and
any other related matters. In accordance with the terms of reference, in
conducting the inquiry the committee had particular reference to:
(i) the type of investment vehicles, funds and other products involved in
Trio Capital, and the relevant regulatory regime;
(ii) the points of failure in relation to products or advice;
relationship between self managed superannuation fund (SMSF) arrangements and
role of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in
monitoring Trio Capital and any subsequent pursuit of directors, advisors and
(v) the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) regulatory
relationship to Trio Capital and the use of SMSFs;
access to compensation and insurance for Trio Capital investors including in
circumstances of fraud;
(vii) the issue of
fraud (in particular international fraud) in the collapse of Trio Capital and
(viii) whether there are adequate
protections against fraud for those who invest through self-managed
superannuation funds as opposed to other investment vehicles;
appropriateness of information and advice provided to consumers, and how the
interests of consumers can best be served in regulated and unregulated
(x) the role of ratings agencies and research organisations in product
promotion and confidence; and
other matters relevant to the collapse of Trio Capital in the further
improvement of the financial services sector and consumer protection.
Conduct of the inquiry
The inquiry was advertised in The Australian newspaper, The
Australian Financial Review newspaper, in the Business Review Weekly
magazine and Money Magazine. Details of the inquiry were also
placed on the committee's website.
The committee invited submissions from interested organisations,
government departments, and individuals affected by the Trio Capital collapse.
The committee also invited prominent individuals connected with Trio Capital,
including Mr Shawn Richard, to make submissions to the inquiry. The
closing date for submissions was 19 August 2011, however the committee
continued to accept submissions received after this date from individuals
affected by the collapse. The committee received 77 submissions, 9 of which
were confidential. The list of submissions is in Appendix 1.
Mr Shawn Richard
In August 2011, during the course of this inquiry, Mr Shawn Richard, a
former Trio Capital director, was jailed for engaging in dishonest conduct with
respect to financial services. His is the only criminal prosecution in the
criminal fraud to date. While Mr Richard did not make a submission to this
inquiry, the committee was interested to seek his views on a number of matters
relating to the Trio fraud.
On 29 March 2012, the committee requested Mr Richard's response to a
series of ten questions. It received his responses on 27 April 2012. The
questions and the responses are provided in Appendix 3. Mr Richard provided the
committee with additional information on 9 May 2012. This is also included in
Private briefings and public
The committee held private briefings with Commander Peter Sykora,
Manager Crime Operations and Mr Peter Whowell, Manager Government Relations of
the Australian Federal Police (AFP); Mr John Hempton and Mr Richard
Butler, private capacity; and Mr Richard St John, principal for the review
of statutory compensation schemes operating in the financial services sector.
The committee held seven public hearings: Sydney on 30 August 2011;
Thirroul (north of Wollongong) and then in Sydney on 6 September; Sydney on
23 September 2011; Canberra on 22 September; Canberra on 4 November
and Sydney on 4 April 2012. A list of witnesses who gave evidence at the public
hearings and the community forum is at Appendix 2. The list does not include
witnesses who gave in camera evidence at the community forum.
The Victims of Financial Fraud
At the public hearing on 4 April 2012, a group called the Victims of
Financial Fraud (VOFF) complained that they had not had the opportunity to
discuss the matter of the Trio Capital fraud with officials from APRA and ASIC.
The committee resolved at the hearing that it would write to the Chairman of
APRA, Mr John Laker and the Chairman of ASIC, Mr Greg Medcraft, to request that
these agencies discuss the matter of the Trio Capital fraud with
representatives of VOFF.
On 10 April 2012, the committee wrote to the Chairmen to request that
officials from their agencies meet with VOFF representatives. At the time of
writing, the parties were making arrangements to do so. APRA advised the
committee that it extended an invitation to meet with representatives of VOFF
on 18 April 2012 but that this offer was declined. The committee does recognise
that officials from APRA and ASIC were present at the public hearing in
Thirroul on 6 September 2011 when several Trio investors gave evidence. It also
notes that ASIC has already met with representatives from the ARP Growth Fund.
The committee will follow up on the progress of the regulators' discussions
with VOFF at the forthcoming ASIC oversight hearing in June 2012, and (for
APRA) through the Senate Estimates process.
The committee thanks those organisations and individuals that made
written submissions, and those who assisted the committee through attending
private briefings or by presenting evidence at public hearings or at the
In conducting the inquiry, the committee was particularly interested in
the implications of the Trio Capital collapse for investors, especially
investors in self-managed superannuation funds. The committee recognises the
trauma experienced by investors affected by the Trio Capital collapse, and is
grateful for the assistance that investors provided through sharing their
stories and experiences with the committee.
Through the public hearings and the community forum, the committee
sought to hear from a balanced selection of investors, advisers, regulators and
individuals. Nevertheless, the committee acknowledges that there were individuals
who wished to provide evidence, particularly at the community forum, but did
not receive the opportunity to do so. The committee thanks these people for their
willingness to assist the committee.
During the course of the inquiry, a witness who presented evidence in
camera drew the committee's attention to what appeared to be a widely
distributed email, authored by a financial advisor, which strongly criticised
the witness for providing evidence to the committee. The committee drew the financial
advisor's attention to the protections afforded to witnesses under the
Parliamentary Privileges resolutions, and informed the advisor that the
committee would consider taking further action should the advisor continue with
this or similar conduct. No further conduct was brought to the committee's
Scope of the inquiry
While information about the experiences of persons directly affected by
the collapse of Trio Capital greatly assisted the committee, the committee does
not have the power to take action in individual cases. The committee's inquiry
sought to determine whether improvements can be made to Australia's financial
services sector and consumer protection regulations. While some of the
committee's recommendations focus on pursuing the lost Trio funds and bringing
those illegally involved with the scheme to justice, most of the
recommendations address the broader issues of the transparency of the
superannuation investment framework.
Cooper Superannuation Review
This inquiry occurs in the context of broader reforms to the Australian
superannuation system arising from a 2010 review of the system chaired by Mr Jeremy
The Cooper Review formulated ten guiding principles for developing
superannuation policy. These included:
- recognising the importance of regulation in addressing prudential
and other risks;
the key objectives of transparency and disclosure to the
operation of the system;
- providing members with choice, while recognising that greater
choice entails greater responsibility; and
- ensuring that the superannuation system is supported by high
quality research and data, as well as by intermediaries with high professional
The Cooper Review's recommendations drew from these guiding principles.
Some of the Cooper Review's recommendations related to the SMSF sector, although
these were 'not dramatic and largely relate[d] to compliance, audit, adviser
competency and like measures'.
Among other matters, the Review recommended that SMSF trustees be prohibited
from acquiring collectables and personal use assets, to ensure that all
investments were made for genuine retirement income purposes.
The Government did not implement this recommendation. Rather, through
the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Amendment Regulations 2011 (No. 2),
SMSF trustee investments in artwork, jewellery, antiques, artefacts, coins and
a range of other collectables cannot be leased to, used by or stored in the
private residence of a related party to the trustee of the SMSF, and any
decision to store such investments must be accompanied by written reasons.
These regulations came into effect on 1 July 2011, although they allowed SMSFs
with existing assets a five year transitional period within which to comply.
Other related inquiries
In 2009, the committee conducted an inquiry into financial products and
services. The inquiry was initiated in response to the collapse of a number of
high profile financial product and service providers including Storm Financial
and Opes Prime. The focus of this inquiry was on the role of financial
advisers and their commission arrangements for financial product sales and
The inquiry catalysed the announcement of the Future of Financial Advice
(FOFA) reforms in April 2010 to 'improve the trust and confidence of Australian
retail investors in the financial planning sector'.
The FOFA reforms consisted of an eighteen month consultation period culminating
with two bills,
the Corporations Amendment (Future of Financial Advice) Bill 2011 and the
Corporations Amendment (Further Future of Financial Advice Measures) Bill 2011.
The bills were examined by the committee and the Senate Economics Legislation
Committee which reported in February and March 2012 respectively.
The FOFA reforms adopted many of the recommendations made by the
committee in its 2009 inquiry into financial products and services and also
proposed several additional measures. The bills, which are currently before
parliament, propose to amend the Corporations Act 2001 to:
- place a requirement on providers of financial advice to obtain
client agreement for ongoing advice fees every two years and to provide clients
with enhanced annual disclosure fee statements;
- enlist changes to ASIC's licensing and banning powers, including
the expansion of discretionary powers relating to individuals;
- impose a best interests duty on financial advisers when they
interact with clients;
- ban the receipt of remuneration which could reasonably be
expected to influence the financial advice provided to clients;
- ban the charging of asset-based fees on borrowed monies of
clients (fees calculated as a percentage of client funds under advice); and
- ban volume-based shelf-space fees paid from fund managers to
administration platform operators.
The government responded to concerns raised by industry that the
proposed commencement date for the bills did not allow for adequate
implementation time as well as arguments that the FOFA reforms should commence
in alignment with the Stronger Super reforms. The Hon. Bill Shorten MP,
Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation announced in March 2012 that
'[t]he reforms will commence from 1 July 2012, as originally announced,
but the application of the provisions will be voluntary until 1 July 2013'.
As part of the initial FOFA reforms announcement, the Government also commissioned
Mr Richard St. John to review the need for, and costs and benefits of, a
statutory compensation scheme for investors. This review was in response to
recommendation 10 of the committee's 2009 inquiry. The closing date for
submissions to the consultation paper for the review was 1 June 2011 and 28
submissions were received.
Mr St John's review, which concluded in April 2012, examined the
adequacy of arrangements by which investors may be compensated where they
suffer loss as a result of misconduct by a financial services provider. The
particular focus was on the position of retail clients who incur financial loss
or damage as a result of a breach of a financial service licensee under Chapter
7 of the Corporations Act.
Chapter 3 of this report looks at the findings of the Richard St John
The role of APRA in relation to
As part of its broad prudential role, APRA is responsible for the
prudential supervision of superannuation funds (excluding self-managed funds).
APRA oversees the compliance of registrable superannuation entities (RSE) with
the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 (Cth) (SIS Act), as
well as administering the licensing of RSEs. The licensing regime requires the
trustees of superannuation funds that are not self-managed funds to obtain an
RSE license before they can operate as a trustee of a superannuation fund.
In order to obtain an RSE license, the trustee must comply with certain
conditions, including meeting minimum standards of fitness and propriety and
maintaining risk management strategies governing the trustee's operations and
risk management plans for each fund under the trustee's control.
APRA summed up its role in supervising RSEs in its submission to the committee:
APRA's supervisory approach is based on the fundamental
premise that the primary responsibility for financial soundness and prudent
risk management within a superannuation fund rests with its board of directors
and senior management. Our approach, therefore, is to attempt to work with
these parties to resolve any issues and ensure that fund member interests are
protected. APRA's role is to promote prudent behaviour by superannuation funds
through a robust prudential framework of legislation and prudential guidance
which aims to ensure that risk-taking is conducted within reasonable bounds and
that risks are clearly identified and well managed.
Registrable Superannuation Entities
As set out above, a trustee must obtain an RSE license before it is able
to operate as the trustee of a superannuation fund. APRA maintains a register
of all RSEs and RSE licensees. The trustee of an RSE (or of an RSE licensee) is
(a) comply with the fund's governing rules and the SIS Act, which includes
obligations to: act honestly in all matters concerning the superannuation
entity; exercise, in relation to all matters affecting the entity, the same
degree of care, skill and diligence as an ordinary prudent person would
exercise in dealing with property of another for whom the person felt morally
bound to provide; and ensure that the trustee’s duties and powers are performed
and exercised in the best interests of the beneficiaries);
(b) comply with the prudential requirements set out in its RSE licence;
(c) comply with its risk management strategies and plans;
(d) maintain adequate financial, technical and human resources to operate as
a trustee under the SIS Act;
(e) maintain minimum standards of fitness and propriety for superannuation
(f) comply with a risk management strategy which is specific to the trustee
and specific for any RSE for which the trustee acts in the capacity of trustee;
(g) ensure that any outsourcing arrangements are conducted under proper and
APRA periodically reviews RSEs for their compliance with their RSE
license conditions, including compliance with the trustee's risk management
strategy and plan.
Under section 29G of the SIS Act, APRA may cancel an RSE license if the
licensee has breached a condition of its license.
It is important to note that an RSE license is different to, and
separate from, an Australian Financial Services License (AFSL). While they
share some common requirements, and an entity may be required to hold both in
order to operate a superannuation fund, the focus of the two licenses is
An RSE license is a license to operate a superannuation fund. As
outlined above, in assessing an application, APRA focuses on prudential
standards, the fitness and propriety for office of the superannuation fund's
trustees (and, if they are bodies corporate, their directors) and the
operations, systems and resources (including risk management systems and
financial resources) of the trustee to prevent or minimise loss.
An AFSL, on the other hand, is a license, issued by ASIC, to operate a
financial services business. A financial services business could include
providing financial product advice or dealing in financial products such as
interests in superannuation funds. ASIC focuses on consumer protection and
market integrity. It assesses the ability of an entity, including its
responsible managers, to provide efficient, honest, fair and competent
financial services. ASIC also looks at the entity's compliance measures and
client complaint handling procedures.
The role of the responsible entity
Trio Capital was the 'responsible entity' for several managed investment
schemes, which it used to invest superannuation funds for which it was the
trustee. It is important to understand the legal obligations of the responsible
entity of the managed investment schemes.
The Managed Investments Act 1998
introduced the concept of the responsible entity as a single point of
accountability. This replaced the Prescribed Interests regime (part 7.12 of the
former corporations law) where both the manager and the trustee were
The primary purpose of the 1998 reforms was to ensure that only one entity
would be responsible to investors for the management of assets held under
managed investment schemes.
Under section 601FB of the Corporations Act, the responsible entity is
liable for the operation of the scheme, in accordance with the scheme's
constitution and the Corporations Act. Under section 601FC of the Corporations
Act, the responsible entity's duties include the obligation to act honestly; to
act in the best interest of members; to ensure all payments out of scheme
property are made in accordance with the scheme's constitution; and to ensure
the scheme property is valued at regular intervals appropriate to the nature of
The regulation of the responsible entity is the responsibility of ASIC. The
managed investment scheme, including the name of the proposed responsible
entity, must be registered with ASIC in certain circumstances, including where
it has more than 20 members or where it was promoted by a person in the
business of promoting such schemes.
As noted above, ASIC has responsibility under the Corporations Act to
grant and monitor AFSLs. Holding an AFSL is a pre-requisite for operating as a
responsible entity. Under the Corporations Act, an AFSL holder must:
(a) comply with conditions on their licence and the financial
(b) provide financial services efficiently, honestly and
(c) have adequate arrangements to manage conflicts of
(d) ensure representatives are adequately trained and
competent, and comply with the law;
(e) have adequate resources (including financial,
technological and human resources) to provide the financial services covered by
their licence and to carry out supervisory arrangements;
(f) maintain the licensee's own competence, skills and
(g) maintain internal and external dispute resolution systems
where clients are retail consumers;
(h) maintain adequate risk management systems;
(i) properly handle client money (trust account and audit
(j) notify ASIC of significant breaches;
(k) have adequate arrangements to compensate retail clients
for losses; and
(l) provide key disclosure documents.
Chapter 5C of the Corporations Act anticipates that a responsible entity
might not follow the rules set out in the managed investment scheme's
constitution or the laws governing managed investment schemes. This part of the
Act is summarised by ASIC in its submission:
There are three mechanisms in Ch 5C to deal with the
perceived compliance risk in a cost effective way. These are the requirements
(a) each registered managed investment scheme to have a
compliance plan setting out adequate measures for the responsible entity to
apply to ensure the managed investment scheme complies with its legal obligations
(b) the compliance plan to be audited annually by a
registered company auditor or audit firm (s601HG); and
(c) a compliance committee to be established where less than
half of the directors of the responsible entity are external directors
ASIC's submission commented on these three requirements. In terms of (a)
A compliance plan is a document designed to set out the
various checks and balances to be established to ensure that a registered
managed investment scheme operates in accordance with the requirements of its
constitution and the Corporations Act. The
Corporations Act does not specify what constitutes adequate checks and
balances, with the intention being that the responsible entity develop and
implement an appropriate set of compliance measures to address a minimum number
of mandatory risks. The approach was intended to provide flexibility for
responsible entities to create compliance measures that were tailored for the
particular registered managed investment scheme.
In terms of the annual audit of the compliance plan ((b) above), ASIC
The requirement to appoint a compliance plan auditor who
audits the compliance plan annually operates as an independent external
oversight of the responsible entity's compliance arrangements. The purpose of
requiring an audit of the compliance plan is to ensure the compliance plan is
current at all times.
In terms of the purpose of the compliance committee ((c) above), ASIC
The compliance committee is intended to act as an
intermediary between the operational compliance unit and board of directors in
relation to compliance monitoring, assessment and reporting. Given ASIC's
finite resources, the compliance committee also plays an important role as
The committee recognises that these arrangements are designed to provide
a strong governance framework for the managed funds that help the operators
demonstrate probity and assist them to manage conflicts of interest. However,
it has received considerable evidence that there are weaknesses in this
framework. These issues are discussed in some detail in chapter 7 of this
Dual regulated entities
As chapter 2 discusses, Trio Capital was both a licensed superannuation
fund trustee and the responsible entity for several managed investment schemes.
ASIC noted in its submission that there are approximately 33 entities that hold
both an AFSL to operate as a responsible entity and a RSE licence to operate as
a registrable superannuation entity. These dual regulated entities are subject
to oversight by both ASIC and APRA.
ASIC explained that there are two key differences in the obligations
under the Corporations Act for dual regulated entities. Dual regulated entities
are excluded by the Corporations Act from the obligations to have adequate
resources (s912A(1)(d)) and adequate risk management systems (s912A(1)(h)). These
exemptions are on the basis that dual entities are regulated under the SIS Act
by APRA 'and it would be duplicative for ASIC to also require adequate resources
or review risk management arrangements'.
The committee notes that the government proposes in a forthcoming
tranche of superannuation legislation to amend the Corporations Act so that RSE
licensees that are also responsible entities of managed investment schemes would
not be exempt from the Corporations Act requirements to have available adequate
Self managed superannuation funds
Many investors in Trio Capital did not invest as part of an
APRA-regulated superannuation fund. Rather, they invested as a SMSF directly
into the managed investment schemes for which Trio Capital was the responsible
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) defines 'self-managed
superannuation fund' as a complying superannuation fund under the Superannuation
Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 that has:
fewer than five members;
- each individual trustee of the fund is a fund member;
- each member of the fund is a trustee;
- no member of the fund is an employee of another member of a fund,
unless those members are related; and
if the trustee of the fund is a body corporate each director of
the body corporate is a member of the fund.
SMSFs are subject to less stringent regulatory requirements under the
SIS Act than APRA-regulated funds. Trustees of SMSFs remain responsible for all
decisions, and must make those decisions for the benefit of members, but SMSFs
are not subject to the same prudential requirements as APRA-regulated funds.
SMSF trustees are required to:
- make sure the sole purpose of the fund is to provide retirement
benefits to the members;
- prepare and implement an investment strategy;
- make investment decisions with respect to super and tax laws;
- accept contributions and pay benefits (pension or lump sums) in
accordance with super and tax laws;
- ensure an approved auditor is appointed for each income year; and
- undertake administrative tasks such as lodging annual returns and
Reflecting this more limited regulatory regime, SMSFs are not regulated
by APRA. Instead, they are registered with, and overseen by, the ATO. The ATO's
focus is on the SMSF's compliance with superannuation and taxation laws, not on
prudential safeguards. That is, the ATO focuses on ensuring that SMSFs are not
used as vehicles to avoid tax, that the SMSF has an investment strategy and
that an independent auditor verifies annually that its investments have been
made in accordance with that strategy. Unlike APRA-regulated funds, the ATO's
role as regulator is not to ensure that the SMSF has appropriate risk
In its report, the Super System Review identified the reason for the
regulatory focus on compliance, rather than prudential oversight as being
because, in SMSFs, 'the trustees and members are one and the same people who
have the incentive and responsibility to protect their own interests'. This
alignment of interests is to be contrasted with the situation in an
APRA-regulated fund. In such funds, the trustee is quite distinct from, and
usually in a commercial relationship with, its members, and this requires more
stringent safeguards to ensure that the interests of the trustee align with
those of the members of the fund.
The close relationship between trustees and members of SMSFs has always
been at the heart of the more relaxed prudential standards imposed on them,
including when such funds were classed as "excluded funds" under the
SIS Act and were subject to the oversight of APRA's predecessor, the Insurance
and Superannuation Commissioner. Indeed, the 1997 Financial System Inquiry
Final Report noted that while prudential regulation of the SMSF sector would be
"impracticable", prudential and compliance standards could be
improved by requiring the beneficiaries of SMSFs to be trustees of such funds.
This recommendation was implemented by the Superannuation Amendment Act (No.3)
1999 (Cth). It is important to note that this Act also moved responsibility for
SMSFs from APRA to the ATO.
The lack of stringent prudential regulation of SMSFs means that the role
of finance professionals is extremely important in both the decision to set up
an SMSF, in developing its investment strategy, in implementing that strategy
and in complying with taxation laws and managing risk. Accountants' advice
about the taxation implications and appropriateness of particular
superannuation structures, such as SMSFs, and financial planners' advice about
the investment strategies and risks of such funds will generally be central to
people's decisions about the structure of their superannuation affairs. While
an SMSF investor and trustee will use other finance professionals, such as
auditors and actuaries, in their superannuation dealings, accountants and
financial planners are generally people's entry point into the SMSF sector and,
as such, occupy a key role in the sector.
This report has nine chapters:
- Chapter 2 presents the structure and operation of Trio Capital, particularly
the Astarra Strategic Fund and the ARP Growth Fund for which Trio was the
responsible entity. The chapter concludes with a chronology of key events in
the operation and collapse of Trio Capital.
- Chapter 3 acknowledges the impact that the collapse of Trio
Capital has had on investors. It also examines compensation arrangements for
Trio investors in APRA-regulated superannuation funds as opposed to
self-managed superannuation funds.
- Chapter 4 presents the views of the regulators: APRA, ASIC, the ATO
and the Treasury.
- Chapter 5 details the views of the gatekeepers: the internal
auditor, KPMG; the external auditor, WHK; the custodians, ANZ Custodian
Services and the National Australia Trustees Ltd; the research house
Morningstar; the Financial Planning Association, the Financial Services Council
and the Wollongong-based financial adviser Mr Ross Tarrant.
- Chapter 6 provides the views of Trio Capital investors,
particularly SMSF investors in Trio. The chapter highlights their criticism of
the regulators, the auditors, the research houses and financial advisers. It
notes that many of these investors set up an SMSF and invested in Trio simply
because their accountant or financial planner advised them to do so.
- Chapter 7 identifies seven 'expectations gaps'—differences
between what investors perceive to be the role of a gatekeeper or the
protections within the system and what is actually the case.
- Chapter 8 argues the case that there needs to be a much more
vigorous criminal investigation, involving ASIC, APRA and the AFP into the Trio
fraud. It emphasises that these investigations must be conducted with a view to
pursuing the maximum available criminal sanctions against those responsible.
- Chapter 9 summarises the committee's findings and views.
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