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Huljich not the only one in the gun

Sunday, November 21st 2010, 11:42AM 7 Comments

by Philip Macalister

I thought it was worth having a go at trying to defend Peter Huljich. As readers will know the Securities Commission laid criminal charges against Peter Huljich and Huljich Wealth Management (HWM) for allegedly misrepresenting its KiwiSaver funds to the public. Since this story broke there has been plenty about it including a comprehensive statement from Huljich about what happened. This is detailed elsewhere on Good Returns. As part of the background Huljich has acknowledged there was a mistake, stepped aside from his role and offered make ups to its KiwiSaver members. Now the Securities Commission lays criminal charges against him which, if proven, could result in time behind bars. The so-called victims of this alleged crime haven’t lost money and have been told that if they are unhappy about HWM they can switch to another of the many KiwiSaver providers in the market place – for free. Here’s the bit I don’t understand – why is the Securities Commission taking this action when there are plenty of other potential cases where investors were deliberately misled; are real victims as they lost money and are now suffering. Secondly, did Huljich really top up the funds without anyone else associated with the business knowing? I don’t know if Huljich set out to deliberately mislead investors, and unless there is some smoking gun then it would be hard to secure a conviction. Likewise it is incredibly difficult to believe the Huljich took the actions he did and no one else knew anything about it or raised any objections. The directors who signed off the accounts should be included in any criminal proceedings the Securities Commission pursues. So too should Trustees Executors which is both the trustee for the fund, and the fund administrator. With this latter role the company must have known what happened and approved it. If it had doubts it should have walked across the room and raised it with trustee. Looking at the 3rd Annual ASSET Magazine KiwiSaver survey it is clear that HWM has done well signing up members. Indeed our analysis of data shows that HWM was one of the most successful managers in the year to March 31 at signing up new members and had the highest growth in FUM at a whopping 625%. Yes, justice has to be seen to be done, but again why this case when there are plenty of others where there are actual victims? Is the commission just after a high profile scalp to look good? You can see why I didn’t follow my father, grandfather and uncle into the legal profession!
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Comments from our readers

On 21 November 2010 at 12:22 pm PM said:
Like you, I don't understand why the SC would pursue this one through the courts. When someone has restored clients funds to somewhere near where they should have been for whatever mistakes they had made seems magnanimous. Perhaps the SC have nothing else to do at present.
Maybe its their image they are worried about and in this case there egos have got in the way. With people in authority taking this action I wonder where their ability to apply some common sense has gone to.
On 21 November 2010 at 1:10 pm Independent Observer said:
The industry must cease taking the “well no one was really hurt” approach to this issue, and begin to support the Regulators in removing the systemic failings of the NZ superannuation industry.

Whilst Huljich’s actions are undeniably the outcome of ignorance, it is appropriate for the Regulator to demonstrate to all Kiwisaver managers the importance of their duties. For that to be achieved, the Regulators must ask some tough questions of the other Huljich Directors as well as the Trustees.

We must remain mindful of the fragility of the NZ financial services industry, and the embryonic nature of the Kiwisaver program. Unless the Regulator flexes its muscle now, the industry will pay dearly for a softly softly “no one was hurt” approach in years ahead.
On 22 November 2010 at 7:22 am ok corral said:
You ignore the effect on other providers in the KiwiSaver market that could not compete with the compelling returns being reported by Huljich. Seccom is there to protect the integrity of capital markets. This includes a wider scope than investors alone. Huljich's membership growth has been helped significantly by illegal sales. I am not sure if this is also being covered by Seccom. I hope so; as Seccom has rightly recognised, KiwiSaver is the face of investments for the majority of New Zealand and confidence must be maintained.
On 22 November 2010 at 8:01 am Ricardo said:
I'd rather see the SFO chase real criminals, like the previous Hanover directors, and the fools at Allied who accepted their false valuations. Then we would see real justice for NZ investors. With those three behind bars we might see investor confidence rise. And whilst we're at it throw in a couple of ING/ANZ directors. A clean sweep would do wonders.
On 22 November 2010 at 1:55 pm Jonathan said:
If people say HWM's actions were victimless then they miss the point. The net result of this guys "mistake" was that he could claim superior performance compared with other funds. THIS WAS FALSE. Maybe this explains why so many people signed up to his fund. Honestly folks - we wonder why no Kiwi trusts anyone in finance. duh!!!!!
On 24 November 2010 at 1:02 pm also interested said:
The Trustee would have or should have known given the size of the transaction relative to the size of the fund at the time and the fact that they get comprehenisive reporting each month, and we mustn't forget the AUDITORs should have also known something of this transaction due to its size relative to the fund size and it's unusual gain charateritics.
On 6 January 2011 at 12:10 pm James Nesbitt said:
Of course he should be prosecuted to the full extent the law will allow - he misled people and benefited from it - this time maybe no one lost out - oh except for the other less deceiptful companies. The Finance industry in this country is the wild west - if you want people to invest in this sector it needs to have far more integrity and way less sharks operating in it - and a regulator that can not only seize assets but lock people up - this is what investors (remember them? the customer?) want more than anything else - honesty, integrity, truth and whopping big stick if we dont get it.
Commenting is closed

 

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