ASIC is encouraging former Dixon Advisory clients to register complaints to AFCA if they want to be eligible for remediation through the compensation scheme of last resort.

In a media statement released Wednesday afternoon, the corporate regulator stated it will write to former Dixon clients to inform they should make a complaint.

Because complaints can only be made against firms that are AFCA members, ASIC stated that claims should be made as soon as possible as no grievances can be made if Dixon’s membership ceases.

ASIC stated that lodging a complaint is a necessary step for clients to preserve their eligibility under a potential future CSLR.

However, even if a complaint is lodged with AFCA compensation is not guaranteed due to the CSLR not yet being established and the parameters of the scheme yet to be finalised with the bill lapsing at the end of last Parliament.

Additionally, because Dixon Advisory is in voluntary administration and an outcome is undecided, it could affect clients’ eligibility to compensation, as well as individual eligibility of former clients.

“Whether the complaints can be progressed will depend upon a number of factors, including the outcome of the administration process, potential class action litigation, as well as whether a CSLR is established and what its scope may be,” ASIC stated.

What goes up, goes down

Dixon Advisory entered voluntary administration towards the start of the year and has since had its AFSL suspended by the regulator.

AFCA paused progress of all complaints against Dixon Advisory in January in line with its policy for the handling of complaints involving insolvent firms.

While awaiting the introduction of CSLR, these complaints will continue to be paused, but will be assessed if a scheme is established.

AFCA will only be able to fully assess the impact of the CSLR and its relevance to paused complaints once the scheme is legislated and stated it will review all relevant complaints as soon as that occurs.

“Whether or not a former client of Dixon Advisory is eligible for compensation will depend on the individual circumstances of the advice that they were given, as well as the scope and operation of a CSLR,” the authority said in a statement.

“Additionally, AFCA will also review the pause on complaints against Dixon Advisory when the outcome of the administration process is known as this could also affect clients’ eligibility for compensation.”

Dixon struggled with conflicts of interest issues relating to its proprietary ASX-listed US Masters Residential Fund, which performed poorly across 2018 and 2019 after much of its client based was advised to invest in it.

The directors stated, entering into administration was necessary because “mounting actual and potential liabilities mean [the company] is likely to become insolvent at some future time” referring to a class action suit which accused the firm of providing conflicted financial advice, as well as determinations from AFCA and ASIC.

The event threw vertical integration back into the spotlight with other organisations with business models that are vertically-aligned, stressing the importance of having clearly demarcated parts of the business.

Maybe not even a last resort

Dixon, along with the Sterling Income Trust, have highlighted the need to include managed investment schemes in the CSLR which has been argued by a coalition of association and consumer groups.

Advice groups argued the lack of complaints from AFCA is evidence it is unfair to target the industry.

The Financial Services Council has disputed the necessity of including MISs, arguing none of its members have unpaid determinations.

The issue of including MISs ultimately came down party lines with the Coalition government not including into legislation which led to Labor’s opposition of the bill.

Despite the low number of complaints against advisers, the government used evidence from the Ramsay Review that 92 per cent of unpaid determinations came from the financial advice sector. It also noted that it has never been the intention for the CSLR to include to cover investment risk.

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