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09 January 2004

From Prison to Property

The farce of Australia’s property investment laws.

There are few better examples of the farcical property regulation in this country than the case of Michael David Wilson.

Back in the 1980s, Wilson was in charge of one of Australia’s largest investment advisory companies. He reportedly had 115 salespeople working in 55 offices across the nation. Back then, Wilson was described as “a leading investment adviser”. The man to see about creating wealth.

But Michael David Wilson was also a thief. He stole almost $900,000 from seven elderly people. Among other things, Wilson invested their money on a Mercedes for himself, a computer system for tipping winners at the races and a loan to a friend who was opening a brothel. The rest he just wasted.

In 1993, Michael David Wilson was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail. The sentencing judge described his crime as being “exceedingly cruel” because many of his victims were elderly and in poor health. None of their money was recovered.

So, what has Michael David Wilson been doing since his release from prison? After all, he has been banned by ASIC for life from giving financial advice. Where to now?

You guessed it – he now gives property advice to investors. You see, according to our regulators, advising consumers to place their financial wealth in the biggest financial market in the country – property – is not the same as giving financial advice. All clear?

Wilson now heads up a firm called Wilson Property Development and Consulting Group. With the aid of some good PR people he has received some glowing reports from those who perhaps lack the time or the resources to do some serious checking. Or perhaps they have been swayed by Wilson’s denial that he is the same Wilson. No, he just has the same full name – Michael David Wilson – and the same date of birth – July 23, 1945 – as Wilson the thief. What rotten luck.

In a recent full-page article, which urged caution to those investing in property, a beaming Wilson claimed that he had been “flooded with inquiries from financial advisers and accountants of clients with serious money to invest”. Serious money. Remember that, officially, this is not classed as “financial advice”.

Yep, Michael David Wilson is into the big projects. These days, he prefers investors to have a minimum of $500,000 each. He is, however, reported to be planning a project where 35 investors can invest as little as $100,000 each.

Recently we asked one of his close colleagues, “What do these investors say about investing their money with a man who has been in prison for stealing money from investors?”

The answer was breathtakingly simple, “Well, they don’t know, do they? It’s not as if he wears a sign around his neck saying he’s done time in the bluestone cottage.”

“But he looks so credible,” we said.

“Oh yes, he’s a great salesman,” came the reply.

But then came this advice – “Just keep him away from the chequebooks”.

Welcome to property investment in Australia in 2004.


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