Tarrants on offensive over secret payments

Tarrants managing director Ross Tarrant has broken his silence on bombshell claims his company accepted secret, illegal kickbacks from failed fund manager Trio Capital.A NSW Supreme Court hearing last week was told Tarrants allegedly accepted $840,000 worth of secret payments last year as an incentive to invest clients' money in the failed venture.In a statement released yesterday, Mr Tarrant described the money as a "marketing allowance" and said while the firm did not normally accept commissions, the one-off payment helped the firm survive the global financial crisis."During ... one of the greatest financial crises of our time, the receipt of this once-off marketing allowance from Astarra enabled Tarrants to weather the GFC without shedding a job," Mr Tarrant said."After receiving the marketing allowance from Astarra, Tarrants returned to a 98 per cent fee-for-service position."Tarrants laid off 10 staff earlier this month.The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) is now investigating Tarrants as part of its inquiry into Trio.Mr Tarrant defended the Astarra Strategic investment, claiming four-year data showed the fund had significantly less risk and volatility than other international offshore funds.He agreed with a claim by Symes Warne and Associates that research reports should not be solely relied upon, and said Astarra Strategic used different fund managers to accommodate a diverse investment strategy."I myself watched the Astarra funds for four years on a monthly basis before taking the decision to move funds," Mr Tarrant said.Astarra Strategic was licensed by regulators ASIC and APRA, he said.Mr Tarrant supported a proposed ban on commissions paid by product managers to financial planners."Since (the global financial crisis) Tarrants has dealt with six different asset managers and four property developers and has not accepted a commission or marketing allowance from them," he said.Dominion director John Scott said he supported any industry reform that would provide "additional transparency and service value" to clients.Colin Warne was unavailable for comment.

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