A celebrity planner’s world comes crashing down over ‘risible’ advice


“I threw it in the bin.”

Ms McKenna said the advice, which also suggested she sell her shares in Medibank Private to Henderson Maxwell and give the firm all of her cash, was “risible”.

On receiving the advice, Ms McKenna said she told Mr Henderson: “You’re essentially saying that I should give all my money to Henderson Maxwell … and he said ‘yes’. I was gobsmacked.”

Fair Work Commissioner Donna McKenna threw her financial 'advice' in the bin.

Fair Work Commissioner Donna McKenna threw her financial ‘advice’ in the bin.

Photo: AAP

The royal commission heard two recordings of staff from Henderson Maxwell group, who impersonated Ms McKenna to get her industry super fund to share details on her investments.

On both calls the staff member was told that if Ms McKenna moved her funds before she turned 58, and before she stopped working full time, she would forgo a $500,000 lump sum.

During one of the calls the staff member put the industry fund customer service officer on hold before returning with more detailed questions.

Sam Henderson with his firm's award for "Practice of the Year"

Sam Henderson with his firm’s award for “Practice of the Year”

Photo: Supplied

Senior counsel assisting the royal commission Rowena Orr asked Mr Henderson if he was the person to whom the Henderson Maxwell staff member impersonating Ms McKenna asked for advice.

Mr Henderson responded: “I am not sure”.

Ms Orr persisted, asking Mr Henderson: “Were you in the office that day?”

Mr Henderson said he was, leading Ms Orr to ask: “Was she speaking to you?”

“I am not sure,” Mr Henderson said.

Mr Henderson blamed his employees for making the calls, but also said it was “most likely” that he instructed his staff to make the calls where they impersonated Ms McKenna.

The royal commission also heard that Henderson Maxwell’s financial services guide, an official disclosure document, said he had a Masters in Commerce. However Mr Henderson said that while he started his Masters, he never finished it.

Mr Henderson said the guide did not disclose his part-ownership in the administrative company that Maxwell Henderson used because it was not material.

Ms McKenna said she and her son discovered the advice was inappropriate themselves and never took it up.

In 2017, Ms McKenna complained about Mr Henderson and his conduct to the professional body. The Financial Planning Association of Australia. In response to the complaint Mr Henderson told the FPA that Ms McKenna was “aggressive” and “nitpicking”, the royal commission heard.

If someone with my educational and occupational background hits a wall … what hope does someone have who does not?

Donna McKenna

The royal commission heard Mr Henderson withdrew his support for agreed findings that he had given inappropriate advice when the FPA tried to slap a 12-month media ban on the celebrity planner. The complaint, which was filed in December 2017, is still being considered.

But by Tuesday Mr Henderson’s media career appeared in tatters. A Sky spokesperson said Mr Henderson no longer appeared on as a guest presenter for Sky News Business after making his last unpaid appearance on April 13.

Channel 10’s TV show The Project said it was reviewing whether to use him as a financial expert in future, while Fairfax Media said it had no plans to run anything further from Mr Henderson.

Ms McKenna said she was initially reluctant to give evidence at the royal commission because of her role as a statutory officer of the Australian government.

But her concern over the advice she received and the FPA’s handling of her complaint spurred her to act.

“I consider it my public duty in regard to the advice that I received,” Ms McKenna said.

“If someone with my educational and occupational background hits a wall when you endeavour to engage proper disciplinary processes, what hope does someone have who does not to have that type of … skill background?”

Sarah Danckert

Sarah is a business courts reporter based in Melbourne.

Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke writes about media and telecommunications.

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