The Federal Court has imposed record fines on Otton and his company for misleading his students and the public – but what harm was caused?
Some of Otton’s students lost money, or were prosecuted by regulators, for using his strategies, but even that wasn’t the main problem – it was the harm done to low-income and disadvantaged potential home buyers and sellers.
I have not attended a DG Institute (DG) seminar, however I have concerns that her students (“investors”) may be entering into complex financial arrangements with distressed house owners, and may have a grossly inadequate understanding of the owner’s situation and options, and possibly of the risks they face themselves.
I maintain this view despite references in DG information to “helping” owners, ensuring the owner has done “everything possible to keep their home from being repossessed”, and being “fair minded and genuinely want[ing] to help property owners solve their financial problems while earning a fair and reasonable profit in return”.
I base my comments on:
- some of the information provided by DG online (including videos),
- a manual DG has provided to students in relation to the Real Estate Rescue program, and
- my background in consumer credit & debt advocacy.
I’m not a lawyer, but I have worked in policy and executive roles in the community legal sector for over 20 years, mainly in specialist consumer and debt legal services. Many of my colleagues are lawyers who specialise in credit, debt and consumer law, assisting clients by negotiation, in the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA, formerly Financial Ombudsman Service), and in courts and tribunals.
DG has been teaching property investment and wealth strategies for some years. She says that after the global financial crisis she went from “many millions of dollars in wealth” to “many millions in debt”. Continue reading
- ‘Damage waiver” in car hire contracts isn’t insurance, doesn’t cover some types of accidents and can leave drivers exposed to huge bills
- Excess insurance may be of little, or no benefit, if the ‘damage waiver” doesn’t cover you
- While many insurers sell “excess insurance”, I only found one which insured the whole vehicle.
I don’t guarantee the accuracy of this information which is intended to provide general information only and does not constitute legal advice. The information relates to Australia.
When driving a hire car, you are probably driving uninsured – whether or not you pay for excess reduction. (This may not apply to car share schemes which have different arrangements).
Take Susan and Roy. They recently hired a car in New Zealand, and made a point of paying for “excess reduction” cover. While driving on a narrow road, Susan briefly lost concentration and the car crossed to the other side of the road and slipped into a ravine.
Luckily, no-one was hurt, but Susan and Roy found that they were liable for the full cost of the car (a write-off) under the car hire agreement because the “collision damage waiver” provided by the car hire company excluded any accident if the driver was charged with “an infringement/offence”. Police attended the accident and Susan was fined for crossing double lines.
They were also held liable for the cost of recovering the vehicle, which was significant. They couldn’t even claim the $4,000 excess cover because the ‘offence’ exclusion applied to that too. Continue reading
On 11 August 2017, the Federal Court found that Rick Otton, and We Buy Houses (WBH) (referred to as “the respondents” below) engaged in conduct which was misleading or deceptive or was likely to mislead or deceive in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.
Update: In November 2018 the Court imposed record penalties on Otton and We Buy Houses totalling $18 million.
In March 2015, after a co-ordinated investigation with NSW Fair Trading, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) issued proceedings against Rick Otton alledging misleading and deceptive conduct. At the time, the Chairman of the ACCC said the ACCC was concerned about strategies promoted by We Buy Houses and Otton which “target vulnerable consumers who don’t qualify for bank loans or who are having difficulties meeting their mortgage repayments”. Rick Otton is the sole director and sole shareholder of WBH. Since that date, Otton appears to have ceased doing business in Australia, but has been promoting, and running seminars, in the UK.
An 8 day court hearing was held in 2016, and on the 11th August 2017, Justice Gleeson handed down the court’s decision. (I understand that further decisions are yet to be made in relation to penalties, injunctions and costs).
Read the full decision 126 page decision here, or read on for a selection of excerpts: Continue reading
A former Rick Otton student, and witness in his Federal Court case, lost a lease-option case in Supreme Court of NSW (Australia) in December 2016. The case shows, once again, the risks faced by owners, buyers – and even ‘creative property’ businesses – when entering lease option agreements.
Karin Siekaup is a former Rick Otton student, and the only former student who gave evidence for Otton in defending a misleading and deceptive complaint brought by the regulator (ACCC) in Australia. [Update: In August 2017 the Court found that Otton had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct. It appears that Siekaup’s evidence in support of Otton involved two property deals – the two mentioned here which “fell over”.]
In November 2016, Siekaup was involved in a court case of her own, Sieve-Storm v Murphy.
“Siekaup is the sole director of Sieve-Storm Pty Ltd,” and for the purposes of this article I refer to her by name rather than to the company, noting that the judge said “her mind must relevantly be the mind of Sieve-Storm”
Siekaup entered into two lease option agreements for two homes with the same owner, and appears to have ‘onsold’ the properties to third parties via lease options. Around the time Siekaup tried to exercise the options, and thereby buy the properties for the initial agreed amount, the owner claimed that the documentation didn’t comply with NSW law, and cancelled the option agreements. Siekaup tried to claim compensation from the owner but the court confirmed that the owner had the right to cancel the options, that Siekaup wasn’t entitled to compensation and ordered that Siekaup pay the owner’s legal costs. Continue reading