Mr Ridgway, who worked in Shaw’s Brisbane office, left his wife on February 28 and she hasn’t seen him or heard from him since. “I am frightened and bewildered at what is going on,” she said. “Everything we thought was real, wasn’t. Our world has been turned upside down.”
Earl Evans, Shaw’s co-chief executive, said the broking house immediately launched an internal investigation into the incident when it became aware of it. He said it was an isolated incident involving one broker. “We are a victim of this as much as the clients, and we are working together with them to get to the bottom of it,” he said. “The actions of this one individual are absolutely disgraceful. People put their trust in the advice industry and this sort of thing should not happen.”
Vindication Nominees Pty Ltd is a nominee company operated by financial services firm McFadden Securities, which is run by 78–year-old David Sutton.
Mr Ridgway is understood to have introduced more than 40 of Shaw’s clients to McFadden and its predecessors, run by Mr Sutton, who then put them into at least three unlisted products. Those products are Steppes, British Columbia company ASAF Critical Metals, and Marshall Islands company Trinus Impact Capital.
The transfer of the shares via a forged signature to Vindication Nominees had the effect of masking the ownership. The shares were then sold by Mr Ridgway to one of his Shaw clients in breach of Shaw’s internal compliance.
Mr Evans said the broker committed a deliberate act to bypass all its systems, compliance procedures and controls. “This is not a reflection of who we are,” he said.
Mr Ridgway is now living in Sydney and has been staying at Mr Sutton’s home on the city’s northern beaches.
Mr Sutton has had two enforceable undertakings against him issued by ASIC.
An ASIC spokesman confirmed that both Mr Ridgway and Mr Sutton are of interest to the regulator but said it couldn’t comment further.
Mr Ridgway was contacted for comment but did not respond. Mr Sutton said: “Obviously I am not at liberty to discuss a client’s personal account details without their permission. With regard to the share transfer and transaction referred to , I can confirm that neither myself nor the firm received any benefit from this. With regard to the secondary placement in Steppes, the Net Asset Value of Steppes is still significantly above the original secondary placement price.”
Steppes Alternative Plc controls Steppes Alternative Asset Management, which claims to have $3.7 billion in assets under management. The last audit of its accounts was in 2018.
Another unlisted product, ASAF Critical Metals also has question marks over it. A related entity, Aus Streaming, of which Mr Sutton was a director, collapsed in 2018. The courts appointed PwC to investigate the validity of its assets.
The PwC report filed with ASIC found “a systematic and deliberate attempt since at least 6 September 2016 to mislead Aus Streaming’s external stakeholders as to the value of the investments”.
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