Tarrants reported to be shutting financial arm

Managing director Ross Tarrant says he accepted a
Managing director Ross Tarrant says he accepted a "marketing allowance" to help support his company through the global financial crisis.

Tarrants has reportedly advised staff it will close the financial planning arm of its business.Staff are believed to have been told the news yesterday.Director of operations Stefanie Seco would not confirm or deny the reports last night, while the company's public relations spokesman, Craig Badings, was unavailable.The reports follow allegations made in the NSW Supreme Court last week that Tarrants received $840,000 in secret payments as an incentive to invest in collapsed fund manager Trio Capital.Hundreds of clients of Tarrants and another Wollongong planning firm, Dominion, face the loss of their life savings after they were advised to invest in Trio Capital's failed Astarra Strategic Fund.Managing director Ross Tarrant told the Mercury this week he accepted the payments, which he called a "marketing allowance", to help support his company during the global financial crisis.Bulli investor Norm Upton, who stands to lose more than $200,000 in the collapse, said he would never have invested in Trio Capital had he known Tarrants took the payments."He never told us about it ... to put it bluntly I'm pretty angry," he said."(I'm) questioning whether the motive to sell the product was in my best interests," Mr Upton added.Another former Tarrants client, who did not wish to be named, rejected Mr Tarrant's defence that the payments enabled his company to survive the global downturn."He says it helped him, well it didn't bloody help us - I don't think it's a valid excuse," she said."We were disgusted (to hear about the payments); we were under the impression the firm did not accept commissions. He should have let us known."A spokesman for Mr Tarrant said he was "deeply disturbed" by the loss of his clients' money."Mr Tarrant ... and his family had money invested in Astarra Strategic, a fund which was fully licensed by ASIC and APRA," the spokesman said."The Astarra Conservative, Balanced and Growth Funds were ranked one in performance over one, three and five years in each of their categories and fully researched by four different research houses."The spokesman said Tarrants was the subject of an investigation by the Australian Investments and Securities Commission and was under legal instruction not to comment on the marketing allowance."Tarrants has every confidence the law will take its course."