The ASIC investigator who led the case against Adelaide financial planner James Gibbs has spoken out about the process of catching the man who betrayed the trust of his clients by stealing $4.88 million out of their retirement savings.

Chris Rowe detailed the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s part in the arrest of Gibbs during a podcast released on the ASIC website.

“We obtained a number of computers from his Adelaide office and then proceeded to execute search warrants on his home address and on him personally as he was arriving at Adelaide airport for an interstate [trip],” Rowe explained.

The ASIC investigators then examined Gibbs and began gathering information from clients, which “went to form a brief of evidence which we submitted to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions,” according to Rowe.

Gibbs subsequently pleaded guilty to 28 theft and dishonesty charges committed against his clients between 20 August, 2009 and 30 July, 2016. According to ASIC, he used a number of false documents, including member statements and bank statements, to hide the crimes from his clients.

Gibbs was sentenced to ten years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 7 years.

“Mr Gibbs abused his position as a financial adviser,” stated Rowe. “He, in particular, was in a unique position of trust where the clients had given him complete authority over the way their money was managed. He abused that in the worst possible way by using that money for his own purposes and by giving them documents such as account statements which deceived them about the way their investments were performing.”

ASIC revealed that Dallas Stephenson and her husband, who are former client of Gibbs, transferred over $530,000 into accounts “owned, operated by or associated with Mr Gibbs” between August, 2010 and June, 2014. By the time Gibbs’ licensee, Madison Financial Group, reported his transgressions to the corporate regulator and began contacting victims, only one of these investments remained – a Macquarie cash account with a balance of $63.66.

It is understood most of the missing money has been reclaimed via the licensee’s insurer and remediated to the victims.

Stephenson described her experience on the podcast, saying that when Madison informed her about the theft she didn’t believe it at first, and thought it was “some black joke”.

“You feel like an idiot,” she continued. “You feel angry.”

Stephenson said they were “shocked and horrified”, and felt like the “bottom had fallen out” of her world.

“We’d heard about these things happening, but of course you never think it’s going to happen to you,” she continued. “He was frightfully clever in that manipulative, sly, horrible way.”

Tahn Sharpe is a Sydney-based financial services journalist with a background in financial planning. He writes on advice, superannuation, investment, banking and insurance issues, is a certified SMSF Adviser and holds an Advanced Diploma of Financial Planning.
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