Brokers’ victims profiled

VICTIM profiling has become the latest weapon for investment industry regulators in a bid to prevent another finance brokers-style scandal.

Usually used in murder investigations and missing persons cases, the habits and behaviour of corporate crime victims are being analysed by WA experts as part of a new strategy to identify potential rip-offs and protect the vulnerable.

The move comes after up to $200 million was lost in high risk property developments marketed largely to self-funded retirees under the guise of secure pooled mortgage schemes, resulting in a scandal which is likely to impact on the upcoming State election.

Regulators claimed another scalp in relation to the mortgage scandal on Tuesday when they permanently banned Darlington adviser Anthony Robinson for his part in a $4 million property development failure.

Profiling work conducted in the past few months has already revealed methodologies used by those preying on these unsophisticated investors, including a disturbing trend of using sports clubs and church groups to cultivate potential victims.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has adopt-ed victim profiling as part of a new strategy to place more emphasis on identifying future problem areas following the WA experience and other national issues like the compliance standards of the technology sector.

ASIC’s Perth office is being used as a key testing ground for the new strategy, with the resources of its Analysis & Strategic Development Unit bolstered significantly above other regional offices.

The unit has three full-time staff in WA rather than a single person which is typical of most other ASIC strongholds.

The strategy was put in place by former ASIC chairman Alan Cameron but is largely regarded as part of a new direction which will be imposed by his recent replacement David Knott.

Acting regional commissioner Michael Gething said the watchdog was going to be more proactive than ever before, keeping a careful eye on the compliance of technology companies, the use of insolvency by rip-off merchants and quality of advice provided by financial advisers.

“You have to look at what is on the horizon,” Mr Gething said. In that context you have to ask yourself what is the next mortgage brokers crisis and be looking for it at a very early stage. That is the challenge that faces us.”

Mr Gething, who has taken over from former WA regional commissioner Jamie Ogilvie for at least six months, said the victim profiling was being tested as a way of heading off the next wave of financial rip-offs.

“Let’s assume we find retirees are a typical victim, then you look at how people market to retirees and try to use those same distribution channels for both education and surveillance,” he said.

“It is the same methodology that these people who want to prey on people take. One trend we are seeing is people using tennis clubs, bowling clubs and even church groups for marketing.”

Business News understands failed finance broker Leon Jamieson met many of his clients at sports clubs in Albany.

And ASIC alleged that Anthony Robinson used church and social groups to cultivate clients for Westonbirt Park Pty Ltd, a company which was involved in a Bridgetown property development which is now in liquidation. Mr Robinson was a director of Westonbirt through which many self-funded retirees have lost amounts of up to $700,000.

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