Jailed Trio boss says planners shouldn't cop the blame

IN CASE the politicians examining the collapse of the Trio/Astarra funds did not fully appreciate his views on the fund management industry, the jailed Trio boss Shawn Richard has issued a follow-up missive absolving financial planners.

IN CASE the politicians examining the collapse of the Trio/Astarra funds did not fully appreciate his views on the fund management industry, the jailed Trio boss Shawn Richard has issued a follow-up missive absolving financial planners.

"Financial planners should not be blamed in relation to the collapse of Trio Capital," Richard, one of the Trio fraud masterminds, said in an explanatory note that was posted on the parliamentary joint committee on corporations and financial services website on Wednesday.

"Financial planners along with their clients all had a justified expectation that the Astarra Strategic Funds had gone through multiple layers of checks and balances."

He noted that in his experience, financial planners had relied on "reputable research houses" to conduct detailed due diligence on the Astarra funds.

The committee will release its report next week, which details the biggest theft in Australian superannuation history. Richard had already provided a written submission, answering questions posed by the committee. In it, he said, "like most fund managers ... our goal was to establish relationships with the financial advisors who are the gatekeepers to investors". Nearly all the investors were "100 per cent reliant" on the advice of their financial planners. It was investors "fortune or misfortune" as to how the financial advisor structured that investment - those in self-managed super funds are ineligible for the federal government's compensation scheme, which has already paid out more than $50 million.

To date, three financial planning advisors have been penalised by the corporate regulator over Trio. In December, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission banned the Wollongong advisor Ross Tarrant for seven years for not complying with financial services law. Mr Tarrant is appealing against the ban, and during a brief hearing in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, it emerged that one of the witnesses he would be calling was Richard. Mr Tarrant received more than $840,000 in payments from Trio, and has rejected claims that payments influenced his investment advice.

Mr Tarrant's company has been placed in liquidation, and clients have lost more than $23 million through investing in Trio. ASIC has also banned Peter and Anne-Marie Seagrim, the directors of a South Australian firm, for three years.

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