We see that efforts by tax adviser Deborah Annells and her company AzureTax to put the unfortunate events of the summer behind her and to maintain “business as usual” have not been wholly successful.
Readers will recall that she was ejected from Britain’s Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) in July after its disciplinary body found that she had committed six instances of dishonesty. We were intrigued by a message that recently appeared on her website. “AzureTax Limited are [sic] delighted to be the Cocktail/ Champagne sponsor of the WealthBriefing Asia Awards 2014, which will be held at the Four Seasons Hotel, Hong Kong on 5 June 2014 at 7pm. If you would like to obtain an invitation, please RSVP with us by email. email@example.com .”
WealthBriefingAsia is a website that aims to provide information on the wealth management industry in Asia and is part of the WealthBriefing Group, which describes itself as “the premier news, features and information source for the global wealth management sector”. This appears to be part of the ClearView Financial Media Group, which, according to its website, provides “concise, accurate and timely information for private banking and wealth management professionals around the globe”.
On being made aware of the CIOT decision and that Annells had resigned from the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners ahead of an inquiry into her business practices, the website has decided not to continue with the sponsorship. “We have asked for any information that she is holding on her website to be withdrawn with immediate effect and, in turn, we have removed all information relating to Azure from our awards website,” Lai See was told.
Annells declined to comment when asked by Lai See about this. However, the sponsorship information was still to be found on the AzureTax website at the time of writing.
The acts of dishonesty conducted by Annells, according to the CIOT, included dishonestly using trust funds entrusted to the care of AzureTrustees to make payments of HK$5.2 million that were not for the benefit of any of the beneficiaries of the trust, although no trust moneys were ultimately lost; she had failed to separate and maintain bank accounts belonging to the AzureTax Group and its associated companies, all of which she controlled, from client funds held by or on behalf of the group or its associated companies; she sought to deceive a lawyer acting for one of the trusts managed by one of her companies by relying on a bank statement which she knew or ought to have known was forged.
In a statement on her website, Annells denies that she broke laws or professional conduct codes in Hong Kong, although admits her organisation had undertaken some actions that “were not in accordance with client instructions”. She says she has undertaken a review of her company’s practice, but in September she was sued by a client for £1million (HK$12.4 million). The plaintiffs say that funds were not transferred from a trust fund set up by Annells in Hong Kong to an investment company in Britain, although she said they were sent. The case is ongoing.
Annells was arrested in December 2011and released on bail. She has yet to be charged.
The Harvard Business Review carries a report on research which examines the extent to which people’s ergonomic environment affects their ethics. In one experiment, people were deliberately overpaid for participating in the experiment.
Of the participants who were put into expansive postures, 78 per cent pointed out the error while only 38 per cent of those in constrictive positions did so. In another experiment, which involved illegally parked cars in New York, when the size of a driver’s seat increased by one standard deviation from the mean, the probability that a car would be double parked increased from 51per cent to 71 per cent. The reason for this, the researchers say, is that more space makes the subject feel more powerful and alters behaviour. The upshot is that it is important to look at how ordinary, seemingly innocuous things in life, like the spaces you sit in, can influence thoughts, feelings and behaviour. “It’s also important to think about how to reduce corrupt behaviour among the powerful.”