Tim Mullaly and Gervase Greene and other ASIC executives mislead the media


The misleading and deceptive stories about the closure of Dover started with Tim Mullaly, ASIC’s Executive Director, Financial Services Enforcement, on Saturday 9 June 2018. Tim e-mailed ASIC’s media team to tell them they should say the closure of Dover was entirely Terry McMaster’s decision and had nothing to do with ASIC. That mis-message was then spread far and wide by Gervase Green and his ASIC media mates in the following months.

Tim Mullaly leads ASIC’s Financial Services Enforcement Unit. Gervase Greene leads ASIC’s Media Management Unit. They both knew what they were doing. They both knew they were being misleading and deceptive.

Once again ASIC says it was all Dover’s doing. Nothing to do with ASIC. Nothing to see here.

Tim started the rot with his e-mail of 9 June 2018 to Angela Friend in ASIC’s Media Unit. Tim told Angela to tell journalists to:

“ … say …something along the lines of … Dover and Mr McMaster had advised ASIC that Dover will cease providing financial services…”.

Tim omitted the bit about this not being Dover’s choice. The bit about ASIC forcing Dover to close. If Dover did not close ASIC would close Dover. This was what Tim’s legal team threatened in their 1 June 2018 meeting and then confirmed in their letter to Dover dated 5 June 2018.

Tim did not mention:

  • the threatening notices ASIC served on Dover advising in effect ASIC would cancel its licence on 14 June 2018 without notice to advisers.
  • Dover instead asked for a voluntary closure with 4 months for advisers to find a new AFSL.
  • the 1 June 2018 meeting, and ASIC’s position that Dover must close ASAP.
  • the 5 June 2018 letter from ASIC’s in-house lawyers specifically stating it was not Dover’s decision to close and asserting it was ASIC’s decision that Dover must close.

Tim said it was all Dover’s doing. Tim blamed Dover 100%. Gervase did what he was told and repeated the false message to dozens of journalists.

Everyone else at ASIC followed Tim’s instructions. This broadcast and amplified Tim’s deceptive conduct. It was what Daniel Crennan would call dirty pool. They all repeated it. Tim Mullaly, Peter Kell, Louise Macaulay, Joanna Bird, Glenn Childs, James McAllister-Harris, Matthew Abbott, Gervase Greene, Angela Friend and many others. It was ASIC’s policy, if asked, to say “…something along the lines that …Dover and McMaster have advised (ASIC) …  that Dover will case providing financial services”.

FOI documents prove Tim Mullaly knew he was engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct

An FOI request made on 12 February 2018 confirms Tim approved the 5 June 2018 letter just four days before he told the media to say it was entirely Terry McMaster’s decision to close Dover. This letter confirms it was not Dover’s decision to close. It was ASIC’s decision for Dover to close. So Tim knew what he was doing.

ASIC’s 5 June 2018 letter confirms the agreement reached between ASIC and Dover on 1 June 2018. It says its ASIC’s decision to close Dover. It specifically states that it was not Terry McMaster’s decision to close Dover calling that idea “misconceived”. his is the 5 June 2018 ASIC letter Tim approved just a few days before he and Gervase Greene sold the media the false idea that Dover chose to close.

Why is Tim Mullaly’s email misleading and deceptive?

Tim is the ASIC executive in charge of ASIC’s Financial Enforcement unit. Tim is qualified in law and accounting. Tim has been employed by ASIC for more than 20 years. Tim is very experienced: just one many achievements is his on-going quest to get the big banks to stop charging fees for no service[2].

Tim was fully informed of the consequences of his actions and statements. Tim knew the unprecedented closure of one of Australia’s largest AFSLs would make all the newspapers. Front page. Indeed his staff warned him of this just a few days earlier.

Tim is writing to other senior ASIC executives, his peers. They too are fully inforned of the consequences of their statements. They knew the media would turn on Terry, as would the 410 Dover advisers. They knew their false and misleading statements would have severe adverse consequences and create bad publicity for Terry and Dover.

Conversely, they knew if ASIC did not blame Terry ASIC would suffer that bad publicity.

Tim deliberately made misleading and deceptive public statements about the circumstances of Dover’s closure. He did this to divert bad publicity from ASIC to Dover. To help hide the fact ASIC had been covertly conspiring to close Dover for years. Tim’s colleagues, senior ASIC executives knew he was being deceptive but nevertheless went along with him.

The ASIC media team, supported by senior executives, went on a misleading media bender, telling tall tales to the journalists of Australia and other key influencers. These tall tales went so far as Joanna Bird reassuring Phillip Kewin, the CEO of the Association of Financial Advisers, the closure of Dover was: “… completely Terry McMaster’s orchestration and not merely a reaction to directions from ASIC”. In other words, Joanna misled the AFA. She did this to block an AFA intervention seeking extra time for the Dover advisers to find a new AFSL. That’s dirty pool. That’s a clear breach of the standard of behaviour expected of a senior ASIC executive.

What damage did this do?

This did immense damage to Dover and Terry McMaster. It triggered a wave of extremely bad press, from both industry magazines and the daily newspapers. Journalists from The Australian Financial Review went so far as to knock on his door and ask his daughter for an interview.

It created even worse publicity for Dover advisers. The media portrayed Dover’s closure as evidence that something worse was lurking. ASIC fed this meme with suggestive sinisterisms such as “ASIC’s investigation is continuing”. This caused huge problems with clients and new AFSLs.

Other ASIC executives were misleading and deceptive too. ASIC deliberately misled and deceived the AFA.

AFA asked ASIC to extend the 28 days notice period, to help advisers and their clients.AB

ASIC responded by indicating it was powerless to act.There was nothing ASIC could do. It was completely Terry McMaster’s call to close Dover on 28 days notice. ASIC could not extend the 28 days. ASIC was powerless to help… .

This was not true. ASIC misled and deceived the AFA. ASIC denied it had a role in Dover’s closure. ASIC  insisted closing Dover was completely Terry McMaster’s “orchestration”. There was nothing ASIC could do to help the AFA help its members and their clients.

Yes, ASIC even misled the AFA about the closure of Dover. Obviously ASIC could extend the 28 day notice period. ASIC could have said to Philip “No worries. You make a good point: 28 days is far too short. ASIC made a mistake but it’s easy to fix it. So we will. You can have as much time as you need. It makes no difference to ASIC.” But ASIC did not do this, as easy as it would have been. Instead ASIC deliberately misled Phillip Kewin the 28 day deadline was outside of ASIC’s control and “completely Terry McMaster’s orchestration”.

The effect of course was significant: it diverted public criticism about the unprecedented ASIC closing of a large AFSL from ASIC to Terry McMaster. It was as malicious and nasty as it was intentional and calculated.

ASIC intended this diversion. It was disgracefully deceptive and maliciously misleading. It was not completely Terry McMaster’s orchestration. It was completely ASIC’s orchestration.