A Singaporean has been accused of acting as a real estate agent even though she has no licence ("Unlicensed property agent faces charges"; last Thursday).
She allegedly sold foreign properties to people who attended a free property investment seminar and paid two-day investment course.
This method is similar to the one used by trainers at investment seminars on foreign exchange and stock trading. Some of these trainers are not qualified and often promise unrealistic returns.
Under the Financial Advisers Act, those giving investment advice are required to be licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
The Act does not say investment advice can be given only through face-to-face meetings. In this modern age, investment advice can also be given through other avenues such as social media, blogs and seminars.
It is puzzling that investment advice given through seminars is not regulated when the Act mandates such regulation.
Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam brought up the same issue in Parliament last year ("Tighter rules for financial courses";
Feb 7, 2013). The response was that MAS would look into tightening the rules for financial product courses, to enhance protection for consumers.
More than a year has passed since then and investment seminars continue to be unregulated.
Without proper regulation, the public risks making unsuitable investment decisions. Moreover, people do not have any recourse, such as raising the matter to the Financial Industry Disputes Resolution Centre, since they are not dealing with regulated financial institutions.
This article was first published on May 27, 2014.
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