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This week in penalties…

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

Misuse of data

The competition regulator alleges that from 2017 until late 2018, Google misled consumers about its intended—and actual—use of their personal data.

“We are taking court action against Google because we allege that, as a result of these on-screen representations, Google has collected, kept and used highly-sensitive and valuable personal information about consumers’ location without them making an informed choice,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said, in an official statement.

The ACCC has commenced proceedings against Google in the Federal Court.

For more on data use, listen to the GRC Professional Podcast on Data.

VET-FEE-HELP and unconscionable conduct

Unique International College has been ordered to pay $4.156 million in penalties for engaging in unconscionable conduct against five customers and making misleading representation, for making misleading representations, and for breaching unsolicited agreements provisions in relations to six customers.

To learn little more about the VET-FEE-HELP scheme, listen to this podcast with the GRCI’s RTO Manager talking about VET-FEE-HELP and compliance in the training college sector.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission

Appeal upheld

The securities regulator has won an appeal against Westpac Securities Administration Limited (WSAL) and BT Funds Management.

This week, it was found that Westpac subsidiaries did provide personal advice to 14 customers, in breach of their Australian financial licence, and failed to meet their best interest duty.

The regulator said it welcomed the decision as it helps provide clarity on the differences between personal and general advice.

Banned and credit license revoked

Former Victorian finance broker Meenakshi Devi Callychurn has been banned from engaging in credit activities for five years and the credit licence of her mortgage broking business, Unique Mortgage Services, has been revoked.

The Administrative Appeals tribunal affirmed the securities’ regulator’s cancellation of Ms Callychurn’s licence, earlier this week.

According to ASIC, allegations against Ms Callychurn include that she:

  • made a statement in an annual compliance certificate that was false or materially misleading;

  • allowed Mr Frugtniet, her former partner, to continue his involvement in the credit activities of UMS without providing adequate supervision or oversight, after he had ceased to be a fit and proper person;

  • had not provided an adequate response to notices issued by ASIC;

  • had made misleading statements to her former employer as part of its investigation and that she did not give to the AAT a full and frank account of this issue; and

  • did not give a full and frank account in her evidence to the AAT that she had demonstrated a lack of insight about the significance of her failures.

Civil Penalty against RI Advice

This week, the corporate regulator commenced action against IOOF subsidiary RI Advice and its employee, former financial adviser, John Doyle.

ASIC alleged that RI Advice failed to take reasonable steps to ensure Doyle gave appropriate advice and Doyle is alleged to have been giving ‘cookie cutter’ financial advice to clients.

“The maximum civil penalty for contraventions alleged against RI Advice is $1 million per contravention. For Mr Doyle, the maximum civil penalty is $200,000 per contravention,” ASIC said.

Australian Federal Police

Money laundering through property

Earlier this week, the AFP announced they had seized $17.3 million in assets as the result of an investigation into two Chinese nationals suspected of involvement in money laundering.

The AFP allege that, since 2012, the Chinese nationals moved $23 million in ‘fraudulently-obtained funds’, and that these proceeds were then used to develop property in Melbourne and Tasmania.

Since partnering with the Chinese Ministry of Public Security (MPS), the AFP say they have seized $50 million in illegal proceeds. This most recent seizure is their fifth separate investigation.

“This outcome sends a strong message to people thinking about evading foreign governments and police agencies.

We are working with our international counterparts to stop the proceeds of crime being laundered in Australia. We will catch you eventually,” AFO Criminal Assets and Confiscation Taskforce Detective Superintendent Kate Ferry said, in relation to the investigation.

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