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South-west investors have been urged to check their portfolios amid concerns dozens - including a number of retirees and farmers - have unwittingly poured their savings into high-risk ventures that have since collapsed.
Slater and Gordon commercial litigation lawyer Jessica Latimer said a recent case involving a Portland resident who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars after investing in a high-risk fund without being told of the risks could be the tip of the iceberg.
“Fortunately for that client we were able to help him recover a substantial portion of the initial investment,” Ms Latimer said.
“In the course of that recovery process, we have become aware that dozens of other residents in the region are invested in the same funds.”
Ms Latimer said Slater and Gordon had become aware of a cluster of cases in and around Portland and Warrnambool where locals had invested in particularly high-risk funds, some of which had since been suspended or wound up.
``We've had enquiries from a former factory worker who invested his entire life savings and quite a few farmers who have retired and sold some or all of their land and put that money into these investments,'' Ms Latimer said.
``Another case involves a retired local business identity who invested the proceeds of the sale of their business.’’
“We’re talking about millions of dollars of people’s hard-earned money and it is possible they have invested large amounts in these funds without understanding the true risks they were dealing with.’’
Ms Latimer said the law firm was dealing with a considerable number of enquiries from investors in the region who put money into the MFS Premium Income Fund (PIF) or LM investment products.
“It is worrying to think these cases could be the tip of an iceberg,” she said.
“While the PIF product disclosure statement identifies itself as being a high-risk fund, it is possible that these people chose to invest – or were advised to invest – in these funds without a full awareness of the risks associated.”
Ms Latimer urged all investors to manage their investments diligently, ensuring they fully understand the risks associated with their financial products.
“It is important that as an investor you know what you’re getting yourself into. If you are unsure about the merits of a particular product that you already have bought into, you should seek independent advice as soon as possible,’’ she said.
“It doesn’t hurt to get a second opinion – and when it comes to hard-earned savings, it may be the difference between a near miss and financial disaster.”