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Settlement agent struck off for trust account misuse

By Juliet Helmke
17 June 2024 | 12 minute read
wa state administrative tribunal reb

Having used nearly $30,000 of settlement funds for her own personal expenditure, a Western Australian woman has been permanently banned from working as a settlement agent.

Trading as Real Asset Conveyancing based in Perth’s West Leederville, Shannon Marie Del Valle faced Western Australia’s State Administrative Tribunal after being found to have raided the company trust account on 15 occasions between November 2020 and September 2021. Altogether, it was discovered that she illegally transferred $29,030 to her personal bank accounts and a work credit card.

An investigation by the state’s Consumer Protection brought the allegations against Del Valle to light in 2021. A supervisor was then appointed to take control of the firm and look into reports that a number of settlements and disbursement of funds had failed to be completed for properties located across Perth.

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As a result of the investigation, the State Administrative Tribunal has handed down a permanent ban to Del Valle from holding a licence and triennial certificate under the Settlement Agents Act, as well as a formal reprimand for the offences. She has also been ordered to pay costs of $5,577.

The state’s Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Trish Blake, said she hoped that the consequences of this action would serve as a reminder to the industry of the responsibility agents hold in handling client funds.

“Consumers need to have confidence that the money they are entrusting settlement agencies to look after will be handled in the correct way,” Blake said.

“The laws place strict procedures on how funds are transferred during property transactions in WA – their sole purpose being to protect consumers’ money in what is no doubt one of the biggest financial investments of their lives,” she added.

Blake said that the consequences for anyone found to have misappropriated settlement funds would be serious.

“Breaches of these laws can lead to dire consequences, such as delaying settlement at great cost and inconvenience to both buyers and sellers.

“The penalty in this case should serve as a warning to the settlement industry that severe consequences – including the loss of an agent’s career – await those who don’t comply.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Juliet Helmke

Based in Sydney, Juliet Helmke has a broad range of reporting and editorial experience across the areas of business, technology, entertainment and the arts. She was formerly Senior Editor at The New York Observer.

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