Update - 6 February 2024
As an update to our statement on 16 November 2023, we have now completed the first part of our investigation into the circumstances relating to the operation of a mortgage and loan business (the Loan Business) overseen by Mr John Adams (deceased) at AMS Ivanhoe Lawyers (AMS).
As part of our preliminary assessment, we appointed a compliance auditor and an external investigator, who have been tasked with determining the extent to which Mr Adams and AMS complied with their obligations under the Uniform Law.
From this preliminary assessment, it appears that:
- Funds invested in the Loan Business were received into a bank account operated by Mr Adams, which was separate from the AMS (law practice) trust account.
- Funds invested into the Loan Business do not appear to have the characteristics of trust money because they were not provided in the course of legal practice and were instead provided for the purpose of investment and/or mortgage financing services. Recovery from the Fidelity Fund expressly excludes the loss of money entrusted to or held by a law practice or an associate of a law practice for investment purposes and/or for the provision of certain financial services.
- Funds invested appear to have not been applied towards intended purported loans, and instead these funds appear to have often been distributed to investors as their expected monthly “interest” from fictitious loans.
- Mortgages have been registered that do not appear to be genuine.
- There is no evidence to suggest that any AMS lawyers or other staff, other than Mr Adams, participated in or had knowledge of how the Loan Business actually operated.
Due to the complex nature of this matter, and the significant impact of Mr Adams' activities on investors, our investigation into the circumstances relating to the operation of the Loan Business is ongoing.
Our investigative powers enable us to conduct investigations into the affairs of a law practice with an emphasis on trust money, trust property or trust accounts. Our powers are more limited in relation to matters concerning money/property that is not “trust money” or “trust property”.
We encourage investors and other third parties who believe they may have suffered a loss as a result of, or associated with, the Loan Business to contact us if they haven’t done so already, via our Consumer Enquiry Form or by phoning 03 9679 8148.
Investors in the Loan Business, or others, who believe they may have suffered a loss are also strongly encouraged to obtain independent legal advice in relation to their situation. We can’t provide legal advice, assist with the recovery of investment funds, or address allegedly fraudulent mortgages. The choice of legal representatives to engage is a matter for you.
Assistance in relation to Centrelink payments/services
We have received requests from people seeking information to help them with their communications with Centrelink around any loss of funds invested in the Loan Business. Please contact us if you need this type of assistance.
Future of AMS Ivanhoe Lawyers
We have been made aware that AMS is in the process of being wound up and that the law practice’s active client files will be transferred to new solicitors.
We are not in possession or control of original certificates of titles belonging to clients of AMS.
We encourage any clients of the law practice with questions about file transfer arrangements, including documents like deeds or certificates of titles, to contact the firm directly.
Previous update - 16 November 2023
Further to our statement on 31 October 2023, the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner (VLSB+C) is aware that a number of investors have reported financial losses as a result of investing funds in a mortgage and loan business overseen by Mr John Adams (deceased) at AMS Lawyers, Ivanhoe.
We are also aware of allegations that mortgages have been fraudulently registered against some titles to properties.
Investors and other third parties who believe they may have suffered a loss as a result of, or associated with, Mr Adams’ loan business are encouraged to contact us via our Consumer Enquiry Form or phone 9679 8057, if they have not already done so.
We are continuing to undertake a preliminary assessment of the circumstances relating to the operation of the loan business. Among other tasks, we are considering:
- the nature of the loan business and its relationship to AMS Lawyers;
- the identities of the investors in the loan business and the amounts they invested;
- the circumstances in which they provided funds to the loan business;
- the returns, if any, they received; and
- whether there are funds remaining in the loan business.
This matter is very complex. We will endeavour to reach preliminary findings by the end of the year or in early 2024. We will make as much information available to relevant persons as we lawfully can.
It is important to be aware that our investigative powers enable us to conduct investigations into the affairs of a law practice with an emphasis on trust money, trust property or trust accounts. In the case of money/property that is not “trust money” or “trust property”, our powers are more limited. More information on trust money is available here.
Investors, or others, who believe they may have suffered a loss are strongly encouraged to obtain independent legal advice in relation to their specific situation. The choice of solicitors to engage is a matter for you. We cannot give advice or recommend a course of action or a lawyer who can assist. However we are aware that a number of law practices, including Gordon Legal, are currently representing individuals who believe they have suffered losses as a result of the conduct of Mr Adams.
We have received a number of enquiries in relation to whether we are appointing an External Intervener to AMS Lawyers. There are specific statutory criteria which must be met before we can make such an appointment, which are not currently satisfied.
Original statement - 31 October 2023
The Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner (VLSB+C) is aware of allegations of misappropriation of investment funds by Mr John Adams (deceased), of AMS Ivanhoe Lawyers. We are undertaking a preliminary assessment of the allegations, including liaising with the law practice and relevant third parties.
Our investigative and regulatory/enforcement action powers relate principally to trust monies within the meaning of the Uniform Law. To the extent that any investment business was not related to the provision of legal services and/or did not concern trust monies, we will have a limited capacity to respond. We are working with Victoria Police on this matter.
If you believe you may have suffered a financial loss as a result of investing with Mr Adams, please contact us by lodging a Consumer Enquiry Form, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 03 9679 8001.