The Motor Trades Association of Australia Super fund (MTAA Super) has alleged that its former chair, John Rickus, breached the Corporations Act by providing confidential information about the fund’s alternatives investment strategies while applying to become chairman of Principle Advisory Services, a specialist alternatives advisory firm.

The allegation was one of several in the fund’s revised statement of claim, lodged in an ongoing lawsuit against Rickus disputing whether or not he was under a duty or obligation to give MTAA Super documents that he supplied to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), which contained information about the fund. MTAA Super claims Rickus’ alleged disclosure of the fund’s alternative investment strategies breached section 183 of the Corporations Act and caused detriment to the fund while bringing him benefit since, the fund asserts, the information was conveyed at a time when he was applying to become chairman of Principle. That appointment eventuated in March this year. “The advantage gained was enhanced employment opportunities and remuneration for the Respondent (Rickus). The detriment caused to the Trustee (MTAA Super) is the release of information that could be used by competitors,” the statement of claim reads. “The Respondent has breached section 183 of the Corporations Act 2001 in that he has improperly used the disclosed information to gain an advantage for himself,” the claim continues. Known for its large allocation to alternatives managers, MTAA Super claims that Rickus informed Principle of the fund’s alternatives investment strategies, internal decision-making processes relating to its motives for entering the asset class, and its advice and analysis from Access Capital Advisors (then Access Economics). “The Trustee [MTAA Super] did not and does not authorise, permit or condone the disclosure of the disclosed [confidential] information,” the statement says. To date, the case has undergone only one hearing, which focused on APRA’s intervention into the dispute and which took place on November 7. In its submission, the regulator argues that Rickus was not under a duty or obligation to give to MTAA Super the documents it had received. The court has not yet ordered address of the fund’s allegations that Rickus had given Principle the proprietary information. “At this point the case has focused on the APRA documents,” a spokesman for DMAW, the law firm representing Rickus, said. “The court decided that this needs to be addressed first.” Les Fallick, manging director of Principle, said his firm was aware of the allegations. While the case is scheduled to receive further directions on November 26, a date for the next hearing has not been fixed. MTAA Super contests that it has the right to access the documents, which were given to APRA in the final quarter of calendar 2006, and does not allege that Rickus should not have given the documents to APRA.

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