Peters & Peters

Fertoz pays penalty of AUD$37,560 for misleading environmental claims

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Key facts:

In May 2024, ASIC issued two infringement notices against Fertoz Ltd for breaching the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001. Both notices flow from statements made by Fertoz to the market regarding its Philippines forest restoration project, in a presentation published on the Australian Securities Exchange in November 2023.

The first notice related to a statement that suggested that the Philippines reforestation project would obtain an offtake partner and receive funding for the project by the end of 2023. The second notice related to the statement “planting initial hectares Q4 2023”, which was said to suggest that the Philippines reforestaton project would begin planting in that timeframe.

According to ASIC, Fertoz had no reasonable basis to determine that the relevant statements could be true when the presentation was published. Fertoz had ceased discussions with the original prospective partners and was not yet having serious discussions with alternative potential partners such that the funding would be arranged and trees would be planted on schedule.

ASIC stated that the two statements were connected to the supply or promotion of supply of Fertoz shares, and therefore contravened the Act by virtue of their false or misleading nature.

Fertoz had the option to pay AUD$18,780 per infringement notice, discharging any alleged liability, or face the risk of formal proceedings, which could result in pecuniary fines and criminal penalties. In June 2024, Fertoz complied with the infringement notices and paid the sum of AUD$37,560.

These infringement notices are two of the 17 issued by ASIC as part of its Sustainable Finance enforcement priority. ASIC has previously issued guidance on “How to avoid greenwashing when offering or promoting sustainability-related products” when making promotions and/or statements as to the environmental or nature of financial products.

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