Inside Money
Business writer David Chaplin blogs on personal finance

Inside Money: Innocence lost - the end of the Huljich affair

Peter Huljich at Corporate Fight Night, in Auckland, October 2008. Photo / Norrie Montgomery
Peter Huljich at Corporate Fight Night, in Auckland, October 2008. Photo / Norrie Montgomery

Former KiwiSaver tsar to go to jail?

I don't think so, although there would be plenty of marketing opportunities behind bars for a savvy KiwiSaver provider - a true captive audience.

Instead, it looks like Peter Huljich has cut a deal with prosecutors and the Financial Markets Authority to cop a guilty plea in exchange for dropping a few charges.

According to the news report, the maximum penalty Huljich could face is a $300,000 fine and the judge will surely want to 'send a strong message' come sentencing time - scheduled for December - that the law doesn't take this messing about with KiwiSaver lightly.

After all, this is the first KiwiSaver crime to hit the courts, it's a landmark case, although it's still not clear to many people what Huljich did to deserve such attention.

He gave his own money to investors right? How can that be wrong? Well, it is if the intention is simply to fluff-up performance numbers, as opposed to fixing up an administration error.

As it happens, the Huljich scheme also had to repair an administration error during its final reporting period, shelling out $56,851 for a mistake in the Conservative Fund, as well as compensating some members directly to the tune of a few thousand dollars for the same error.

The Huljich report for the 14 months to May 27 this year also notes a $17,625 "ex gratia" payment by the manager (Huljich) to the scheme derived from providing brokerage services.

Interesting, too, to see the $2.7 million the Huljich scheme had invested this February in an Australian property fund of which Peter's brother Jason Huljich is an executive director.

"The investment was made on normal arm's length commercial terms and Christopher Huljich [Huljich KiwiSaver director as well as father of Peter and Jason] removed himself from the investment decision," the report states. "The investment was made after an in-depth analysis of multiple property investments in Australia at the time and was concluded to be the best available investment."

In hindsight it probably wasn't such a good idea dealing with the family (Carmel Fisher didn't think so, carving out the Centuria investment following her purchase of the Huljich KiwiSaver scheme in April) but let's write it off as an innocent mistake.

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