In September 2017 ASIC announced it had made stop orders on Product Disclosure Statements issued by Theta Asset Management Ltd (Theta) for the Sterling Income Trust (SIT). ASIC made the stop orders because it was concerned about:
- inadequate disclosure of risks and conflicts of interests
- omission of material information about the investment
- presentation of prospective information about target returns, and
- outdated and incorrect references.
In June 2019 most of the companies in the Sterling group entered into liquidation.
AFCA has received complaints about the SIT against two financial firms that are AFCA members. Those financial firms have been involved in the operation, management and promotion of the SIT and some other Sterling Group investments.
Administrators appointed to Theta Asset Management Ltd
Theta is the Responsible Entity for the SIT. On 13 December 2019, Christopher Darin and Mervyn Kitay of Worrells Solvency & Forensic Accounting were appointed as administrators of Theta. For further information about the administration please refer to: http://www.worrells.net.au.
Theta remains a current member of AFCA
In its January 2020 media release ASIC advised that the Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL) of Theta has been suspended until 21 July 2020 because it is under external administration. At this time, despite the status of its license, Theta remains current member of AFCA.
Making a complaint to AFCA
Consumers who believe they have received incorrect or misleading information about the SIT or other Sterling Group investments from a financial firm, or representative of a financial firm, that is a current AFCA member can lodge a complaint against the financial firm.
If you want to find out if a particular company is a current AFCA member, you can search on our website or call us on 1800 367 287.
AFCA is an independent dispute resolution service. Our services are free to consumers, and consumers do not need to be represented to lodge or pursue a complaint at AFCA. Consumers can contact AFCA for assistance with submitting a complaint.
Time limits to complain
AFCA can generally only consider your complaint if it is made to AFCA within the earlier of:
- six years after you first became aware, or ‘should reasonably have become aware’, that you suffered the loss you want to complain about; or
- if you have already complained directly to your financial firm through its internal dispute resolution (IDR) process, within two years of getting a response from your financial firm through that process.
However, for a limited period AFCA can accept complaints about conduct of financial firms dating back to 1 January 2008 even if they would normally fall outside these time limits. Those complaints must be lodged with AFCA before 30 June 2020.
Latest update from the regulator
ASIC provided an update regarding Sterling Group investigation in December 2019. This included that it had commenced action in the Federal Court in Western Australia focused on the promotion and management of the SIT. The action is against Theta as the Responsible Entity for the SIT and Robert Patrick Marie, a director of Theta. ASIC makes allegations in relation to the issue of defective Product Disclosure Statements for the SIT and alleges that there have been compliance failures in the management of the SIT.
ASIC has previously said it is unable to directly make funds available for the compensation of investors who have suffered loss.
However, ASIC has prioritised this matter so that it can take appropriate court action against those responsible, where there has been a breach of the laws it administers (such as the Corporations Act).
ASIC will keep investors updated on any significant developments in relation to this work via its website. Read the latest update on the ASIC website.