Tim Hornibrook, a former head of Macquarie Agricultural Funds Management, was found to have extracted sensitive commercial information from a rival fund using an email address from a fictitious family office. (Photo: Chris Fowler)
Ex-Macquarie director Tim Hornibrook cops ASIC ban for fake email ploy
by Jessica Gardner
A former Macquarie Group fund manager has copped a six-year ban from the corporate watchdog after he was found to have duped his rivals into providing confidential information by using an email address linked to a fake family office.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) said on Tuesday it had banned Tim Hornibrook, of Clovelly, NSW, from providing financial services for six years.
Mr Hornibrook, who was a former head of Macquarie Agricultural Funds Management, along with some members of his sales team, were found to have extracted sensitive commercial information from a rival fund.
The ploy was first revealed by The Australian Financial Review in 2014, which ASIC said spurred it to investigate.
The Financial Review investigation found that an email was sent to a competitor of Macquarie's in the agriculture sector in late 2011 from a Macquarie office in London claiming to be from a private investor called the Brook Family Office.
Using the address [email protected], the email said the fictitious company was considering investing in the fund and needed detailed financial, performance and organisation information. The competitor, believing it was a legitimate potential investor, provided a detailed response days after receiving the email.
ASIC found Mr Hornibrook breached his duties as the person in charge of a managed investment scheme by failing to act honestly, misusing the information he had acquired in order to gain an "improper advantage" and misusing his position as a director.
"The deceptive conduct of Mr Hornibrook was not inadvertent nor was it the result of a momentary lapse," ASIC commissioner Greg Tanzer said in a statement.
"It was committed over a number of years and was intended to gain an advantage for himself and the Macquarie business for which he was responsible."
Mr Hornibrook was a director of Macquarie Agricultural Funds Management between February 2010 and May 2014. He resigned following the publication of the first article.
A subsequent article gave deeper insight into how the Macquarie team extracted the sensitive details from its rival.
"We manage several high-profile clients who prefer to keep their investment strategies out of the public domain," a letter dated June 29, 2012 said.
The letter requested "very high level" information from rivals by claiming to manage €2 billion ($3.1 billion) and to be "interested in learning . . . the diversifications benefits of farmland investments".
Mr Hornibrook has the right to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. ASIC's investigations are ongoing.
The Greens said it will attempt to haul Macquarie before the Senate inquiry into penalties for white collar crime.
A party spokesman said the existing penalties were not tough enough and targeted the individual rather than the corporation.
"There is nothing to dissuade individuals from engaging in this sort of activities. It [the penalty] is almost like a cost of doing business," the spokesman said.
Submissions for the inquiry close on March 30.
A Macquarie spokeswoman noted the group "conducted a prompt and thorough investigation of the matter which included employees, all available correspondence and relevant external parties" after the revelations became known.
"The staff involved are no longer with Macquarie and the business has been under new leadership since June 2014," she said in a statement. "Macquarie takes its obligations to regulators and clients seriously. Every employee is personally accountable for their conduct in representing the group and in undertaking business on its behalf."