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FASEA board conflicts of interest questioned

FASEA board conflicts of interest questioned

***Updated***

The links between FASEA and tertiary education providers may give rise to “serious” conflicts of interest for a number of the authority’s board members, one financial planning lecturer has suggested.

Speaking exclusively to ifa in his personal capacity, William Johns, a certified financial planner specialising in advising clients with complex health and disability challenges and seasonal academic lecturer at Western Sydney University, has raised the issue of potential conflicts on the board of FASEA.

“It is clear there are either direct or perceived conflicts of at least four of the nine appointments, and this is serious,” Mr Johns said. “There is no hiding the conflict is real.”

Given that FASEA will have responsibility for approving specific degrees and educational qualifications for financial advisers, a number of current board members have problematic personal and professional ties to education providers, Mr Johns suggested.

The board members named as having potentially conflicted relationships with education providers are Carolyn Bond, who is an adjunct professor at Deakin University, Professor Mark Brimble of Griffith University, former RMIT chief operating officer and prominent education executive Steve Somogyi, and Michael O’Neill, who sits on the advisory board of Monash Business School.

Mr Johns suggested that esteemed ethicist and FASEA board member Simon Longstaff may be helpful in offering some analysis on whether his fellow board members may face conflicts of interest and how they may mitigate these. 

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Through these potential conflicts, and its role in determining which courses will be approved under the regime, FASEA is “seriously undermining confidence in the Australian education system”, the adviser and lecturer said.

He added that it might not be appropriate for the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services to have an opinion on education courses that have already been approved by the Department of Education and Training.

“I am not a constitutional lawyer, but I intend to invite legal experts to shed light on whether the minister has authority to operatively dilute the strength of previously-issued Australian qualifications without first proving they are inadequate to serve the public interest,” he said.

Mr Johns said he is interested in hearing from other advisers and community stakeholders who are concerned about the role of FASEA and potential conflicts of interest plaguing its board members.

Clarification: A previous version of this article inferred that Simon Longstaff held a "faculty position" with Ducere Global Business School. While Ducere does describe Dr Longstaff as a member of its "faculty" on its website, ifa can confirm that he does not have any monetary or ongoing relationship with the education provider. 

ifa readers are invited to contact Mr Johns about this matter via the ifa editorial team at [email protected]

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