NZ watchdog censures Aurora Financial for misleading clients
New Zealand’s Financial Markets Authority (FMA) has censured Aurora Financial Group Limited for misleading existing and potential clients about KiwiSaver returns.
Following a review, the FMA found that Aurora Financial materially contravened two market services licensee obligations, sections 19 and 22 of the Financial Markets Conduct Act 2013.
Aurora Financial – a financial advice provider – recommended Aurora KiwiSaver Scheme funds to clients or prospective clients during one-on-one advice sessions between September 2021 and May 2022. The Aurora funds did not launch until after the Scheme was registered by the FMA in July 2021.
During the client sessions and in statements of advice, one-year and annualised returns figures were presented in connection with the Aurora funds. The figures were based on the historical returns of the underlying, third-party funds into which the Aurora funds would be invested, once the Aurora funds launched. The returns figures implied that the Aurora funds had an established history which they did not.
Fine print below the returns figures was not sufficiently clear, or prominent, for clients to understand the returns presented had not been achieved by the Aurora funds, but by the underlying funds.
Additionally, Aurora Financial did not update, or replace, the returns figures with the actual returns produced by the Aurora funds once they had launched and short-term return data was available.
Aurora Financial stopped using the returns figures in May 2022.
The Aurora funds’ actual returns for September 2021 to May 2022 were achieved in different market conditions, and were lower than the historical returns presented by Aurora Financial. This gave clients the impression the Aurora funds were delivering higher returns than they actually were. In the period the returns figures were used, 2474 Aurora Financial clients joined the Aurora funds of the 4051 who received the advice.
The FMA concluded that Aurora Financial’s conduct was misleading or likely to mislead, and resulted in it making false or misleading representations.
If affected clients have any concerns regarding this matter, they should contact their adviser or the Aurora KiwiSaver Scheme.