Post: ASIC commences proceedings against Mayfair 101 and Mayfair Platinum for misleading or deceptive advertising

ASIC has commenced proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia against companies in the Mayfair 101 group, alleging that its advertisements, promoted on Mayfair’s websites and in online media, are misleading or deceptive.

Mayfair Wealth Partners Pty Ltd, trading as Mayfair Platinum, and Online Investments Pty Ltd, trading as Mayfair 101, promote two debenture products to wholesale investors (Mayfair debenture products):

M+ Fixed Income Notes, which are unsecured promissory notes issued by M101 Holdings Pty Ltd; and
M Core Fixed Income Notes, which are secured promissory notes issued by M101 Nominees Pty Ltd.
Mayfair Platinum and Mayfair 101 use sponsored link internet advertising, through Google AdWords and Bing Ads, so the websites for the Mayfair debenture products appear as sponsored links when consumers search for “bank term deposit” or “term deposit” online. Mayfair’s promotional material also use words such as:

“term deposit alternative”;
“term investment” and “fixed term”;
“certainty” and “confidence”; and
“capital growth”.
ASIC alleges that Mayfair Platinum and Mayfair 101 made statements that were false, misleading or deceptive by representing that:

Mayfair debenture products are comparable to bank terms deposits, and have a similar risk profile to bank term deposits, when they are debentures with a significantly higher risk profile;
the principal investment will be repaid in full on maturity, when investors may not receive capital repayments on maturity or at all, and because Mayfair could elect to extend the time for repayment for an indefinite period;
Mayfair debenture products were specifically designed for people seeking “certainty and confidence in their investments”, when investors may not receive interest and/or capital repayments, and could lose some, or all, of their investment; and
Mayfair debenture products provide capital growth opportunities, when they do not.
ASIC is seeking injunctions to restrain the publication of statements of this kind, and pecuniary penalties in relation to the alleged false or misleading representations.

On 11 March 2020, Mayfair Platinum suspended payment of capital redemptions to investors in the Mayfair debenture products due to liquidity issues. In light of this, ASIC is also seeking an interim injunction to restrain the defendants from promoting and issuing the Mayfair debenture products while redemptions to existing investors remain suspended. ASIC’s application for an injunction will be heard by the Federal Court on 14 April 2020 at 9.30am.

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