Bankrupt adviser ban appeal fails

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has upheld an ASIC ban against a former Countplus financial adviser who went bankrupt running a side construction business.

Allan Vissenjoux – who previously provided financial services for Countplus-owned Total Financial Solutions – was handed a three-year ban by ASIC in March 2013 for being an undischarged bankrupt.

According to AAT records, Mr Vissenjoux had over 90 creditors, including a debt of $185,096 to the ATO, after a construction company he was running collapsed.

Mr Vissenjoux appealed to the AAT to overturn the ban but the tribunal upheld ASIC’s decision.

AAT senior member John Handley, who ruled on the case, found Mr Vissenjoux was not capable of “exercising an appropriate level of judgement and professionalism” to return to the industry before the ban expired.

Mr Handley said while Mr Vissenjoux was never found guilty of misconduct in providing advice, clients expect a high standard of behaviour from their adviser and can be influenced by an adviser’s personal financial management.

“[Mr Vissenjoux] fails to understand his statutory and practice responsibility and is not acknowledging the adverse perception that his financial mismanagement has cast on the integrity and reputation of the profession and on him,” Mr Handley said.

In particular, he pointed to Mr Vissenjoux’s outstanding debt to the ATO as incompatibile with his role as a trusted advice professional.

“As a member of the financial services community, the applicant’s indebtedness to the ATO of $185,096 clearly points to a person who failed to meet his lawful obligations to pay tax, and also in this case, goods and services tax (GST),” he said.

In addition, he called Mr Vissenjoux’s testimony that he might choose not to disclose his bankrupt status to clients “wholly unsatisfactory.”

“I think it is inconceivable that a person licensed to provide financial services can enjoy the trust of the respondent or the confidence of consumers or investors when they fail to comply with their lawful obligations,” he said.

He also took Mr Vissenjoux to task for being disorganised in his appearances before the AAT and failing to provide evidence from key witnesses.

“The absence of diligence in prosecuting his application in this tribunal is similar to the absence of diligence in management of his personal financial affairs,” Mr Handley said.

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