Longtime followers of this blog will remember that I was instrumental in the exposure the biggest funds management theft in Australian history - Trio/Astarra.
Most of the victims of Astarra were clients of financial planners where the planner was a member of the Association of Independently Owned Financial Planners (the AIOFP). Astarra and its principals were regular attendees at AIOFP conferences and AIOFP members received kick-backs from Astarra - some disclosed, some not disclosed.
Peter Johnston is the executive director of the AIOFP and a regular apologist for AIOFP members. He is quoted today in Investor Daily - an Australian industry newsletter:
Association of Independently Owned Financial Planners (AIOFP) executive director Peter Johnston said it was a comfort that Trio and Astarra Asset Management were deemed "a blatant fraud".
"The advisers are tired of being blamed for product failure, these products should not have been in the market in the first place and the ultimate responsibility lays with the successive politicians over the years who have failed to understand the industry," Johnston said.
Well Peter, I differ. Financial Planners market themselves as having expertise and are required under law to understand the products they sell. Moreover Peter clearly thinks he has this expertise. I have an email he sent to two financial planners who put their clients into Astarra. It says:
Peter/Steve, met with Shawn [the guy who ran Astarra] today. I am still of the opinion that he is innocent of any fraudulent behaviour with Astarra, I will back my 30 years of being in business and dealing with all sorts of characters with my assessment. He no doubt can be accused of sloppy paperwork but that is a far cry from the hell he has been through.It is funny how Peter conveniently forgets that he vouched for Shawn Richard. He did so repeatedly (although not publicly since Shawn admitted guilt).
Peter Johnston agreed to a $100 thousand bet with me on the innocence/guilt of Shawn Richard and whether the money would be found where Peter thought it was. He later backed out which is a pity because I would otherwise be $100k richer. (You can read the story here.)
Peter accused me in the press of being motivated by "professional jealousy" re Astarra. I told him that was defamatory: I am a hedge fund manager - I am motivated by money.
Finally Peter thought that I would get sued over Astarra. To quote an email to me:
I suggest you read below and start amending your views or check your sources as you ‘can never believe what you read in the paper.’ I checked with the asset consultant then Shawn himself, this is now been confirmed by the Administrator, ALL of the non hedge fund monies are exactly where they were supposed to be. You will also now find that the ASF cash and 3 of the 5 Hedge Funds are now accounted for. We are awaiting the final 2 which is going to put the spot light and legal proceedings in a different direction, you can be assured of that.Bluntly, Peter Johnston threatened to sue me. He defamed me in the press.
ASSOCIATION OF INDEPENDENTLY OWNED FINANCIAL PLANNERS
And now he revises history to absolve himself and his members.
But that is not my problem with Peter Johnston. Peter Johnston is a coward who does not have the courage of his convictions. He bet 100 thousand dollars on the Astarra outcome. And then - when he realized that I was serious - he backed down.