Updated: 24 August 2020

Our previous Sterling group update was 20 July 2020. This August 2020 update should be read together with the previous updates.

This update provides:

  • information for consumers who have not yet lodged an AFCA complaint including time limits relevant to lodging a complaint about Theta Asset Management Ltd (in liquidation) (Theta)
  • more information for consumers who have a claim against Theta about how to lodge a Proof of Debt with Theta’s liquidators
  • general information about how AFCA may approach the issue of loss in misleading conduct complaints at AFCA and
  • how we applied our approach in a recent Sterling determination against Theta.

Lodging a complaint with 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.

Complaints lodged against any solvent member are progressing in accordance with our usual processes.

As outlined in our update about insolvent firms, we are currently accepting future complaints about insolvent financial firms, but we will hold them over until there is more clarity about the timing and scope of the Government’s proposed Compensation Scheme of Last Resort.  

Lodging against Theta

Even though Theta is insolvent, and this is currently impacting AFCA’s handling of these cases, we can still accept new complaints lodged against Theta while it remains a member. At this stage Theta will continue to remain a member of AFCA until 6 January 2021. New complaints about Theta’s conduct should be lodged as soon as possible to ensure that any possible remedies in the future are available.

AFCA cannot confirm whether we will be able to progress complaints lodged against Theta in the future (because of its insolvency), therefore as outlined in our Information when you have a complaint about an insolvent firm fact sheet, if you have a claim against Theta, you should also consider lodging a proof of debt with Theta’s liquidators as soon as possible. This is important so that you do not miss out on the opportunity for your claim to be considered by the liquidator.

Lodging a proof of debt with Theta’s liquidators

Especially given AFCA cannot confirm whether we will be able to deal with complaints lodged against Theta in the future (because of its insolvency), if you have a claim against Theta, you should also consider lodging a proof of debt with Theta’s liquidators as soon as possible. This is important so that you do not miss out on the opportunity for your claim to be considered by the liquidator if you do decide to lodge a proof of debt.

For further information about the liquidation and to access the Proof of Debt form, please refer to the Worrells Solvency & Forensic Accounting website or contact Cheryl Huynh on (02) 9249 1220 or email Cheryl.Huynh@worrells.net.au.

More information is in our Information when you have a complaint about an insolvent firm fact sheet.

Assistance to lodge a proof of debt

If you are an individual in Western Australia who needs assistance with lodging a proof of debt with the liquidators and cannot afford a private lawyer, Law Access can assist you.  Law Access is a not-for-profit community legal service that can connect you with lawyers who will provide free legal help with the proof of debt process.  Please email a completed Application Form to lawaccess@lawaccess.org.au.  You only need to complete the sections of the Application Form relating to personal details (page 1), a statement about the matter (page3 - where you can state “proof of debt assistance for Theta”)  and the permissions and acknowledgements (page 4).  If you need any assistance with the Application Form you can contact Law Access on 08 6488 6813 on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 9am to 12 noon WST. 

How AFCA approaches loss in misleading conduct claims

We have also provided some general information below that may assist you calculate your claim. This information is based on how AFCA generally approaches the issue of loss when it determines complaints about misleading conduct.

Although you may find this information helpful in considering your own circumstances, each person’s situation is different, lodging a proof of debt is a different process to AFCA dealing with a complaint, and Theta’s liquidators can make their own decisions about how they will assess claims.

AFCA has published on our website AFCA Approaches a series of documents that outline how we approach certain types of financial complaints we receive. Two Approaches are particularly relevant to the Sterling group complaints:

Each complaint is unique in nature, so the information in the Approaches is a guide only.

We have provided a summary of the relevant guidance in these approaches on the How AFCA approaches loss in misleading conduct claims page

This page also includes details of a published determination against Theta awarding compensation to a complainant who had invested in the Sterling Income Trust.

It is important to note that we do not treat previous decisions as precedents. There may be circumstances when a previous decision is not applicable because the facts are somewhat different, or we have changed our approach to a particular class of complaint.

More information and previous updates

Sterling group investors current matter - July 2020 update

Sterling group investors current matter - February 2020 update

Sterling group investors current matter - September 2019 update

Latest news: AFCA statement on Sterling complaints

Latest news: AFCA pauses complaints against insolvent financial firms

Factsheet: Information when you have a complaint about an insolvent firm