New charges due this week, says finance regulator

By Susie Nordqvist

Sean Hughes, head of the Financial Markets Authority.

Photo / Mark Mitchell
Sean Hughes, head of the Financial Markets Authority. Photo / Mark Mitchell

New super-regulator the Financial Markets Authority is this week poised to press charges against a company which is also being probed by the Serious Fraud Office.

FMA chief executive Sean Hughes told TVNZ's Q&A that the regulator was working as fast as was 'humanly possible' to have the 25 investigations it inherited wrapped up by the end of next month.

This includes an announcement due to be made this week.

The advent of the FMA came after 63 finance companies collapsed from 2005 to 2009, which destroyed about $8.5 billion of investor wealth.

Hughes said he hoped to rebuild people's confidence in the financial markets by making sure they had the right tools they need to invest safely.

"We've got a national crisis around financial literacy and for me that is the issue that we need to focus on."

Hughes said the regulator was doing everything it could to recover money for investors, but warned there were no guarantees.

"If the money's gone offshore, or if it's been spent or it's been squirreled away somewhere, we could spend millions and millions chasing that, and at the end of the day there's no dividend available for those investors.

"We are going to have to accept in many of those cases, that money is gone."

Asked whether the regulator was still intending to pursue Hanover Finance, Hughes said he hoped to complete that investigation shortly.

"We have made a commitment to the court and to other parties to have that investigation wrapped up next month."

The FMA is investigating if there were breaches of the Securities Act in the registered prospectuses of Hanover Finance, Hanover Capital and United Finance.

"We've only been going seven weeks so we're going as fast as we humanly can (on completing all investigations)."

"We've got to raise standards in the market, we have to pursue wrongdoing where it's deliberate or particularly reckless, and wherever possible we can we will go out there and try to recover funds for investors who have lost money where we can."

After July 1 it will be an offence under new financial adviser regulations for unlicensed adviser to provide retail clients with personalised investment planning services and financial advice on investment products.

To date 1100 financial advisors have been authorised.

"Unfortunately there's going to be a few that are not going to make it, and we'll be taking action to ensure that those people don't give advice."

Hughes said everyone had a part to play in improving financial literacy in New Zealand.

"It starts in school and it goes right through the life cycle, and I'm delighted to see that the government announced some initiatives around financial literacy - Massey University and Westpac, but we also at the Financial Markets Authority, have a critical role to play."

"We want to make sure that people are investing in companies they understand and are comfortable with their risks."

-NZ HERALD ONLINE

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