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Advisers embroiled in poultry fund row

A dispute has emerged between a fund manager and a group of Melbourne-based financial advisers over a proposal to merge three unlisted agricultural property funds.

Ahead of a scheduled vote to merge and list funds, including the Chicken Income Fund and RiverBank, later this month, Rural Funds Management (RFM) – responsible entity of the funds – has issued a statement criticising a collective of financial planners for seeking to obstruct the deal.

The fund manager announced it is “in conflict with a group of inner east Melbourne financial planners” called the Investor Action Group (IAG) over its opposition to the proposal – which it says would result in “Australia’s first diversified agricultural REIT” – singling out two member firms, AFSL holder Segue Financial Services and the Banks Group, an authorised representative of BT dealer group Magnitude.

RFM founder and managing director David Bryant said the IAG’s opposition to the proposal was “opportunistic” and not in the best interests of unit holders, a number of whom are understood to be advised by IAG member financial planners.

“Investors should vote to ensure that this objective is achieved and to defend their fund from the fallacious claims and proposals brought by a handful of financial planners from Melbourne’s inner east,” Mr Bryant said, claiming the proposal has been endorsed by Lonsec and Crowe Howarth.

According to RFM, the IAG supported a resolution to have RFM removed as responsible entity to the funds and replaced with the Huntley Group, which the RFM statement contends is “associated” with former Trio Capital director David Millhouse.

“Financial planners behind the IAG still recommended the resolution to appoint Huntley despite being made aware of its association with Millhouse,” the statement said.

However, a source close to the matter, speaking to ifa on condition of anonymity, said the financial advisers involved are only representing the interests of their clients and that there are ulterior issues underlying the dispute.

“There is a significant level of dissatisfaction with RFM’s poor management of the [Chicken Income Fund] and escalating fees,” the source said.

Members of the IAG did not respond to requests for comment before ifa’s deadline.