ASIC lashes fund managers over false advertising

In the wake of the Mayfair 101 court action, ASIC surveillance of almost 40 managed funds found that many were mislabelled and that the product name didn’t align with the underlying assets.

ASIC undertook targeted surveillance of 37 managed funds operated by 20 responsible entities that hold a collective $21 billion in assets, finding that many had “confusing or inappropriate” product labels and that redemption features did not match the liquidity of the underlying assets.

“Funds should be ‘true to label’. This is not a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have for responsible entities in meeting their legal obligations to their investors, especially in times of market volatility,” said ASIC deputy chair Karen Chester.

“Inappropriate labelling of a fund can mislead investors into believing that the fund is much safer or more liquid than it actually is. Put simply, a fund should not use terms such as cash or cash enhanced unless its assets are predominantly in cash and cash equivalents.”

As a result of the ASIC action, seven responsible entities have voluntarily changed or proposed to change the names of their funds to reflect product composition, one RE is proposing to change the asset allocation of the fund to reflect its name, three have undertaken or committed to undertake a review of their funds, and one withdrew misleading promotional materials and wound up its fund.

“Managed investment products are not prudentially regulated or government-guaranteed, so it is paramount that consumers are not misled about the level of risk associated with a particular product,” Ms Chester said.

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“Responsible entities must ensure their products are true to label and the redemption terms offered to investors are supported by and consistent with the underlying liquidity of the fund’s assets.”

ASIC began its surveillance in recognition of the fact that consumers may look for alternative investment options offering regular or higher returns during times of market volatility. The regulator shortlisted products from more than 350 funds with over $65 billion in assets and sought further information on asset allocation, liquidity, maturity profile and resilience from 20 responsible entities, identifying concerns with the labelling practices of 16 funds from 13 responsible entities.

ASIC lashes fund managers over false advertising
ASIC lashes fund managers over false advertising
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