Saturday, October 15, 2022

Alexander Phillips - Failures’: ASIC secures $230m in penalties against big banks, mining giants


Randwick Council general manager Therese Manns appointed to the same role at North Sydney Council

Randwick Council general manager Therese Manns has been appointed to the same role at North Sydney Council — but senior sources say there is more to her move than simply a new opportunity

Randwick Council GM Therese Manns resigns following ‘golden handshake’ debacle

Randwick Council’s general manager has resigned “with mixed emotions”. It comes less than three months after she told staff “there will be no resignation” following a rejected golden handshake worth $400,000.

Randwick Council’s general manager has resigned, following a turbulent period which included a previous resignation agreement rejected by councillors and a follow up reassurance that she was not going anywhere.

Two men sentenced to 40 years jail for Malta reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia’s car-bomb murder

Tesla Shares Get Halved Wolf Richter

Failures’: ASIC secures $230m in penalties against big banks, mining giants

ASIC mandate is ‘very broad’


Australia’s corporate regulator secured almost $230m in civil penalties in the last financial year, including against giants Westpac, NAB and Rio Tinto.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission also revealed in its 2021/22 annual report that it secured convictions against 33 individuals.

Following six proceedings, Westpac was hit with a total $113m fine for “widespread compliance failures” over a 13-year period that affected more than 70,000 customers.

In just one area, the bank and its subsidiaries charged more than $10m in advice fees to more than 11,000 dead customers for services that were not

Westpac was hit with a total $113m fine for “widespread compliance failures” over a 13-year period that affected more than 70,000 customers. Picture: NCA NewsWire/John Gass
Westpac was hit with a total $113m fine for “widespread compliance failures” over a 13-year period that affected more than 70,000 customers. Picture: NCA NewsWire/John Gass

NAB was slapped with a $18.5m penalty for failures relating to misleading fee disclosure statements.

The bank made false or misleading representations to clients in fee disclosure statements about the amount paid for services and the services received.

It was the first penalty imposed for fee disclosure statement failures under the Corporations Act.

ASIC chair Joe Longo said it had been a year of significant law reforms following the Financial Services Royal Commission.

“We have worked with industry to bed down significant reforms, which offer consumers and investors greater protection from poor behaviour, through more rigorous accountability and obligations on providers of financial services,” he said.

“The magnitude of harm revealed during the FSRC and other recent inquiries has led to a considered expansion of the tools we have available to detect and deter wrongdoing in this sector.”

NAB was slapped with a $18.5m penalty for failures relating to misleading fee disclosure statements. Picture: NCA NewsWire/John Gass
NAB was slapped with a $18.5m penalty for failures relating to misleading fee disclosure statements. Picture: NCA NewsWire/John Gass

ASIC also brought proceedings against mining heavyweight Rio Tinto, which was ordered in March to pay $750,000 for contravening its continuous disclosure obligations.

Rio Tinto failed to disclose material information to the ASX between December 2012 and January 2013, including that mining assets held by Rio Tinto Coal Mozambique were no longer economically viable.

Mr Longo said ASIC would next focus on areas of increasing risk of consumer harm, including greenwashing claims and crypto investment scams.

He said there would also be a focus on the superannuation industry, as well as supporting consistency in standards of climate change and sustainability reporting by corporations.


  • Pacific leader lashes Deputy PM’s ‘threats’

    Bougainville’s president has accused Richard Marles of ‘intimidation’ after the Defence Minister backed PNG’s right to choose the autonomous region’s future. 

  • Reform proposals ignite gas revolt

    Big gas producers are nervous about proposed intervention in the market just weeks after an LNG pact with the Albanese government was signed.

  • The spy who came into my bedroom

    John le Carré conducted their clandestine affair like a spy operation from one of his novels. Now his ex-mistress is spilling the beans — and she doesn’t give a damn about the consequences.

  • ‘It’s a sh-- show’: how Truss blindsided know-it-all Kwasi

    For a man colleagues say considered himself ‘cleverer than everyone’ Britain’s Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng had no idea it was coming. In just 16 minutes, he was on the scrapheap.

  • What's wrong with this picture? Greens question levee

    Controversy erupts over a wall protecting Melbourne's top racecourse while surrounding homes were inundated; Man found dead in Rochester flood.

    One hour with a real estate phenomenon

    Australia’s top agent, Alexander Phillips, sold $1.1 billion of property last year, drives a Porsche, and likes $300 bottles of wine.

    OK, this was a Sydney eastern suburbs moment.

    There I was, at Justin Hemmes’ Hotel Centennial in Woollahra, talking about Toni Collette’s last property trade over a $290 burgundy with Alexander Phillips, who may be the greatest real estate agent in this property-obsessed city.

    Back at his office, a buyer had sat down and refused to leave until she closed on a Queens Park house. (Phillips’ advice: “You shouldn’t say that to an agent.“) Before his crab quiche arrived, the vendor accepted $4.5 million. By the time the 2019 Domaine Henri Boillot Volnay was dry, Phillips had sold an $800,000 apartment in Waverley, too.

    Alexander Phillips, who likes French red wines, at the Centennial Hotel in Woollahra. Louie Douvis

    I had asked Phillips to reveal his most famous client. Instead of answering, he picked up his phone and rang secretary Pru Kelly, who nominated the Los Angeles-based actress.

    Phillips sold Collette’s four-bedroom Yanko Avenue, Bronte, house for $5.75 million in 2015.

    “Now it’s probably worth $12 million,” he says.

    I’m surprised he stopped at Sydney. I thought he has always claimed to be the best agent in the universe.

    — Ben Collier, The Agency

    The 42-year-old isn’t well known outside the golden rectangle that comprises Australia’s richest property market. Within its bounds, he is a phenomenon.

    An industry website, Real Estate Business, has ranked him the industry’s sales leader since 2016. Last year, Phillips says, he and his direct subordinates at PPD Real Estate sold 254 Sydney houses and apartments worth a combined $1.1 billion. It was the first time any individual Australian agent had reported sales worth 10 figures in 12 months.

    Phillips’ achievement isn’t easy to verify, since some competitors don’t provide sales statistics to the property-marketing websites that rank agents. These include Ben Collier of The Agency, who is sometimes cited as the eastern suburbs’ top seller of expensive homes.

    Asked to respond to Phillips’ claim to be the city’s top agent, Collier says: “I’m surprised he stopped at Sydney. I thought he has always claimed to be the best agent in the universe.”

    Braden Walters, the Real Estate Institute of NSW’s chairman of residential sales, isn’t a sceptic. “There is no question he is one of the best agents in the country,” he says.

    For a super salesman, Phillips is a little diffident. As we chat a little stiffly about our property portfolios, he feels more process than charm driven. He doesn’t hype himself, which surprises me. If I was expecting a show – and I think I was – I am going to be a little disappointed.

    It disrupted millions of lives, but the pandemic was great for the real estate industry, which was classified an essential service. Each day of Sydney’s lockdown, Phillips was all over the eastern suburbs in his new Porsche 911. Seven days a week, he fielded calls from Australians overseas wanting to get into the city’s property boom.

    “Everyone was sitting around with nothing to do,” he says. “Last year, I would not have been sitting here with you. Last year, I didn’t do lunches.”

    Lunch he may not do, but eating and drinking is a speciality. Phillips chose the Centennial, which is owned by Sydney’s Merivale group, out of loyalty and tradition. Phillips is friends with owner Justin Hemmes’ older sister, Bettina, and has socialised with Hemmes, one of the eastern suburbs’ more sought-after party companions.

    Phillips and his 35-year-old wife, Brighid, held their engagement party at the Centennial (their wedding was limited to 10 people), and apparently dine at a Merivale restaurant once or twice a week. The night of our Friday lunch he has a booking at sushi e, a restaurant within the Establishment nightclub. The following day will be dinner at Felix, an expensive French-style steak brasserie.

    For our lunch date, Phillips arrives on time and greets the staff like old friends; they return the favour. We are seated at his favourite table, which is in the middle of the room. He asks for a Sydney Lager, which isn’t stocked, and settles for a Kirin, which functions as a palate cleanser for the wine.

    Phillips orders a dozen oysters to start. I eye off a pork pate, but am intimidated by what feels like Phillips’ dietary discipline.

    “You seem like a steak kind of guy,” he says.

    I choose a Murray cod, roasted.

    Phillips and a sommelier, Simon, discuss whether the wine should be served at 12 or 18 degrees. Phillips mentions a ’65 red he tried on a holiday in the south of France. “I swap between burgundy and bordeaux,” he says.

    Good agents become well known in their district. In the eastern suburbs, they’re now appearing on a reality TV show. Property porn, catty competition and personal drama has turned the three leads of Amazon’s Luxe Listings Sydney, D’Leanne Lewis, Gavin Rubinstein and Simon Cohen, into celebrities far beyond the enclave they work in.

    Phillips, whose serious demeanour might not be ideal for TV, is dismissive of the showy competition. “It hasn’t doubled their numbers,” he says. “The clientele, the people we deal with, are private. People in Sydney aren’t flashy. They are understated.”

    When the meals arrive, Phillips asks for a second napkin to stuff into his collar. “I’m a messy eater,” he says. “I don’t want to ruin my tie.”

    The silk is saved. The fish is superb. Phillips doesn’t touch his salad, or the broccolini I ordered for the table. I urge him to smile for his photographs. He asks if he is the first agent I approached for a lunch interview. I assure him he is. I don’t know if he believes me.

    The Phillips family lived on the Woolwich waterfront. His father sold European cars on Parramatta Road, including Jaguars and Aston Martins. Each day, Phillips piloted a small aluminium boat to NSW’s leading Catholic boys’ school, St Ignatius, Riverview. The relativity of their wealth emerged during holidays, when the Phillipses went to the Gold Coast and their neighbours to the US.

    After finishing year 12, Phillips enrolled in a Macleay College real estate course. He was fired from his first job, at the RT Forsyth property-management business, where a tea trolley was wheeled around at 2pm. “I was probably a bit immature,” he says.

    He found work as a receptionist for John McGrath, another driven young man who had just opened the second of what would become one of the city’s top real estate chains. McGrath, who floated the business in 2015, is still regarded with reverence by Phillips and other agents who admire his drive and professionalism in a commission-driven industry notorious for burning people out.

    “You have got to have mental grit,” Phillips tells me. “You can miss five listings in a row. That can get you mentally ground down. I don’t get drained. I don’t see it as work.”

    Over lunch, which barely lasts an hour, Phillips unselfconsciously takes or makes four calls and texts several times. One call is from the buyer’s agent whose client is camped in the PPD office. “Congratulations,” Phillips tells her. “You are a pleasure to deal with. He just wants to make sure he is tagged in on Instagram.”

    Phillips predicts property prices will fall a further 10 per cent and rebound quickly when interest rates start being reduced. Louie Douvis

    Phillips part owns PPD, has six investment properties in Vaucluse and Paddington, and provides monthly property-market updates to Sydney bankers at Jarden, a New Zealand investment bank. He has sold houses for two of The Australian Financial Review’s top columnists, he says, and regards newspaper coverage as a useful marketing tool.

    “We give a lot of information to the media,” he says.

    Since April, the newspapers have covered falling property prices. The interest rate effect is being felt hardest in affluent suburbs such as those from which Phillips makes his living. Waverley is down 12 per cent from its peak; Woollahra 10 per cent, Core Logic figures show.

    Phillips predicts prices might fall a further 10 per cent. The number of properties for sale is down 20 per cent. When the Reserve Bank of Australia reverses monetary policy, the rebound will be fast, Phillips says.

    “The minute they talk about interest rates going down, people will say: ‘I have got to get back in,’” he says. “They will overshoot interest rates purposely to slow inflation, and we will see it come back.”

    Investment advice from a real estate agent? Why not?

    The wine has been drunk and the food eaten. Phillips insists on paying the bill, which wasn’t the deal. He ignores my protest.

    I express concern about driving back to the office after two glasses of burgundy and a beer. Phillips isn’t worried. “You’ll be fine,” he says.

    Outside the pub, a black Audi four-wheel drive pulls up to the curb. From the table, Phillips had summoned a ride with one of his staff.

    At least one of us will get home safely, I think.

    The bill

    Hotel Centennial, Oxford St, Woollahra, Sydney

    Kirin beer, $12

    Stone & Wood Pacific Ale, $13.50

    12 Sydney rock oysters, $72

    Bread and butter, $8

    Volnay burgundy 2019, $290

    Murray cod, $55

    Crab quiche, $36

    Broccolini, $16

    Total $502.50