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Former Bell Potter adviser jailed after Crown appeal

A former Bell Potter Securities adviser who pleaded guilty to dishonest conduct has received a harsher sentence after the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal appealed the “manifestly inadequate” sentence.

Lawson Stuart Donald had pleaded guilty to dishonest conduct involving more than $1.7 million following an Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) investigation, and received only a suspended sentence.

ASIC found Mr Donald had dishonestly used his position as an employee of Bell Potter with the intention of directly or indirectly gaining an advantage for himself, or someone else, by rebooking share trades, or transferring trades from one client account to another.

In April 2013 Mr Donald received a suspended jail term upon entering a good behaviour bond. However, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, in consultation with ASIC, appealed the sentence including on the basis that it was manifestly inadequate, ASIC stated.

The court today sentenced Mr Donald to two years jail to be released after one year.

“... the sentence failed to reflect the gravity of the offence and failed in particular to serve as an effective deterrent to other similarly intelligent, competitive professionals in the financial markets...” the court said in relation to the original suspended sentence.

“It has also been repeatedly observed that the real bite of general deterrence takes hold only when a custodial sentence is imposed ... notwithstanding judicial statements to the effect that a suspended sentence is a sentence of imprisonment, the community (including those in ‘white collar’ occupations) might be justifiably forgiven for thinking that an offender who is serving a bond in the community has escaped meaningful punishment,” the court added.


ASIC Commissioner Greg Tanzer said the sentence “recognises the seriousness of Mr Donald’s conduct and will serve to deter others from engaging in similar behaviour.”

In July, NSW Nationals Senator John Williams blasted ASIC over the pace at which the case against Mr Donald was moving, telling ifa the three-month timeframe between Mr Donald’s conviction and being banned by ASIC confirmed his concerns about ASIC’s ability to monitor wrongdoing in the financial advice industry.