The corporate watchdog has suspended the financial licence of a stockbroker that collapsed just before Christmas trapping more than $200 million in client funds.
Administrators from Ferrier Hodgson have likened the collapse of Halifax Investment Management to other high profile stockbroker collapses in recent years including BBY, Sonray and Opes Prime.
The broker had more than 12,000 client accounts registered with the group across Australia and New Zealand.
Since its collapse its Melbourne and Gold Coast offices have been closed but its Sydney and Auckland offices remain open.
All client money invested in Halifax's investment platforms has been frozen as Ferrier Hodgson pores over the stockbroker's business affairs.
So far, Ferrier Hodgson believes it has located shares, derivatives and other products representing $190 million of client funds.
But more than $210 million was invested by thousands of Australians meaning the administrator expects customers funds may have been left short by between $15 million and $20 million.
One of the administrators, Ferrier Hodgson partner Morgan Kelly said the Australian Securities and Investments Commission's suspension of Halifax's financial services licence on Thursday for a one-year period was an expected outcome.
Mr Kelly said customers would still be able to direct trading on their positions but would not be able to receive the funds from any transaction until the investigation was complete.
"This was a step [the licence suspension] done in consultation with ASIC . The conditions of the suspension still allow for clients to close out positions," Mr Kelly said.
Ferrier Hodgson has been in daily contact with ASIC since the group's collapse in late November.
Ferrier Hodgson is still evaluating the full loss suffered by the company and its clients. It is also reviewing what caused the losses and how to attribute those losses to different clients. Halifax also has an arm in China that is not subject to the administration.
Halifax's sole director at the time of its collapse was Gold Coast businessman Jeff Worboys.
Mr Worboys said on Friday he was still involved in Australian Mutual Holdings and Halifax America LLC and is sharing his time between AMH's offices in Sydney and Halifax's US offices.
"I am disappointed that after 18 years of tenure that Halifax has ceased operation, and I am working with the administrators in coming up with a resolution to repatriate monies back to the clients as soon as possible," he said.
The broker operated and offered three trading platforms -- Interactive Brokers, MetaTrader 4 and the MetaTrader 5 platforms. Up until 2016, Halifax counted investment educator Andrew Baxter as a director.
The platforms allowed Halifax's clients to invest in a range of products and equities foreign exchange derivatives, equity derivatives and indexed contracts for difference.
The majority of the client funds lie with Interactive Brokers - with $110 million on the platform in Australia and a further $44 million in the platform in New Zealand.
Both the MT4 and MT5 platforms had "A" books for large bets and "B" books for smaller ones. Halifax only hedged the larger bets, Ferrier Hodgson partner Stewart McCallum told the recent meeting of creditors in Sydney.
Our role is to identify what funds are comingled, what funds can be identified and how to trace them and to get your funds back for you.Morgan Kelly, partner Ferrier Hodgson
Mr Kelly told the meeting there were concerns some of the clients' monies had been mixed together.
"Our role is to identify what funds are comingled, what funds can be identified and how to trace them and to get your funds back for you," Mr Kelly told the meeting.
Halifax called in administrators in late November after a review by its accountants at Moore Stephens found a shortfall in clients funds. The next meeting of creditors will be held in March.
IOOF is indirectly linked to Halifax through its wholly owned subsidiary Australian Executor Trustees which is the custodian for all of Halifax's preferential shares.
Apart from the $2.5 million in paid up capital held by AET on behalf of a client, Halifax has three other shareholders - Mr Worboys and former directors Andrew Baxter and Michael Barnett.
An early estimate by Ferrier Hodgson suggests Halifax owes trade creditors including financial "education institutes" which were owed commissions for marketing Halifax's platforms to their own clients.
One of Halifax's assets located by the administrators is a 2008 Maserati Granturismo with balding tyres.
ASIC noted in a notice on its website about Halifax that: "Under the law, including the Corporations Act, licensees must keep client money separate from their own. This is an important safeguard to protect the interests of retail investors."
Halifax was the subject of an enforceable undertaking with ASIC in 2013 following regulatory action by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission over a slew of concerns about the operations of the business.