A torrid timeline of Sterling Income Trust
As three directors face multiple criminal charges for their involvement in Sterling Income Trust, four years after it collapsed, Money Management reflects on its torrid past.
On 3 November, Raymond Jones, founder of Sterling Group, and director Simon Bell were each charged with 11 charges of aiding and abetting Sterling Corporate Services to engage in dishonest conduct in relation to a financial product or service, in breach of section 1041G of the Corporations Act.
Ryan Jones, who is the son of Raymond Jones, has also been charged with 10 charges of aiding and abetting Sterling Corporate Services to engage in dishonest conduct in relation to a financial product or service.
Below, Money Management outlines the key events in the case so far:
2010: Sterling Group was established, comprising around 50 companies and trusts centred around real estate assets.
2012: A retail managed investment scheme, Sterling Income Trust, was established as a funding vehicle for the group.
2016: Sterling Group offered a long-term residential lease product to retirees and seniors called Sterling New Life Lease, which required investors to make an upfront payment into the Sterling Income Trust (SIT) to fund ongoing lease payments. Tenant-investors were told the returns from their invested capital would be sufficient to pay all of their rent, and some were told they would not need to make any other payments during their tenancy.
2016: Complaints were soon made to ASIC about the SIT, but ASIC failed to look into them.
2017: ASIC began looking into the SIT after a referral by its consumer affairs division.
9 August 2017: ASIC issued an interim stop order on a PDS offered by SIT’s responsible entity Theta Asset Management. ASIC found the PDS for the SIT had inadequate disclosure of risk and conflicts of interest, omission of material information about the investment, presentation of prospective information about target returns and outdated and incorrect references.
29 August 2017: Theta consented to a final stop order which meant no offers, issues, sales or transfers of interest in the SIT could be made until Theta updated the PDS. An updated PDS was then issued at the end of October 2017.
May 2019: The Sterling First group of companies collapsed after a downturn in the property market, product mispricing and the organisation’s complexity, leaving many tenants unable to meet their lease payments. Over 100 tenant-investors had obtained a long-term lease and another 465 had invested in SIT but did not hold a lease.
11 December 2019: ASIC issued proceedings against Theta and its managing director Robert Marie for failing to comply with its duties as a responsible entity.
19 November 2020: Theta was ordered by the Federal Court of Western Australia to pay $2 million and its managing director Robert Marie to pay $100,000 for contravening the Corporations Act in authorising the issue of five defective PDSs for SIT.
14 May 2021: ASIC banned Marie for four years from providing financial services, controlling an entity that carries on a financial services business, and from performing any function involved in the carrying on of a financial services business in any capacity.
20 October 2021: It was moved in the Senate to have an inquiry into Sterling Income Trust. The deadline was later extended from December 2021 to February 2022.
16–18 November 2021: ASIC chair Joseph Longo appeared before the Senate Economics References Committee inquiry into Sterling Group to discuss the social, financial and emotional impact it had on its victims.
8 March 2023: Minister for Financial Services, Stephen Jones, announced the government will launch a consultation into managed investment schemes, partly to prevent schemes like Sterling from appearing again.
4 August 2023: Treasury launched a consultation into a framework for managed investment schemes to determine how they should be marketed and sold to retail clients and the roles of responsible entities.
3 November 2023: Sterling Group directors faced multiple criminal charges in the Perth Magistrates Court.