ASIC has permanently banned Perth-based adviser Phillip Emidio Bruni from providing financial services.
This follows an ASIC surveillance of advice provided by Mr Bruni when he was an authorised representative of Westpac and The Financial link Group.
In the course of the surveillance, ASIC became aware that Mr Bruni had been dishonest and engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct including by retrospectively creating advice documents and reproducing a client’s signature.
ASIC reviewed meta data from Mr Bruni’s advice documents and found that in response to statutory notices, Mr Bruni had created replicas of statements of advice documents that he was required by law to create and retain but had not.
Additionally, Mr Bruni attempted to cover up his failure to obtain a signed ‘authority to proceed’ from a client. He copied and pasted his client’s signature from a ‘fact-find’ document (which outlines a client’s circumstances and needs) without the client’s consent or approval.
Mr Bruni did not tell his licensee or ASIC that the documents produced to ASIC were not copies of original documents. He only admitted to creating the replica documents and the ‘authority to proceed’ when questioned by ASIC.
ASIC’s review also found that Mr Bruni had failed to give appropriate advice or provide advice documents to his clients. He also failed to act in the best interests of his clients or to prioritise their interests.
When providing advice, Mr Bruni did not objectively assess the information provided by his clients or tailor his recommendations to their circumstances. For example, in relation to property investment through an SMSF, Mr Bruni did not make adequate inquiries to assess if an SMSF was indeed appropriate or whether his client could undertake the role of an SMSF trustee.
Additionally, Mr Bruni could not demonstrate that he had investigated alternative products or strategies that could help his clients achieve their goals. He also failed to provide information to his clients about the costs, benefits and consequences of his recommendations, which would have helped them make better informed decisions.
ASIC Commissioner, Danielle Press said, “ASIC’s decision reflects our expectation that financial advisers uphold the attributes of honesty and professionalism in their work.
“Providing false evidence to ASIC under any circumstances is a breach of the law and will not be tolerated. ASIC expects advisers to adhere to the law at all times and meet their obligations of providing appropriate advice that is in the best interests of their clients” Ms Press said.
The banning of Mr Bruni is part of ASIC’s ongoing efforts to improve standards across the financial services industry. It will be recorded on ASIC’s publicly available Financial Advisers Register and the Banned and Disqualified Persons Register.
Mr Bruni’s banning is part of ASIC Wealth Management Project, which focuses on the conduct of Australia’s largest financial advice licensees – NAB, Westpac, CBA, ANZ, Macquarie and AMP. ASIC was notified of Mr Bruni’s misconduct by Westpac.
As part of its Wealth Management Project, ASIC has banned 55 advisers and one director from the financial services industry. Four bannings are the subject of appeal.
Mr Bruni has the right to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of ASIC’s decision.