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NZ Super Fund suspends Milford's mandate as FMA probe continues

The Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation, tasked with managing the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, has suspended its investment mandate with Milford Asset Management while Milford is investigated by the Financial Markets Authority.

The sovereign fund, which has some $28.98 billion under management, will manage the funds internally until the financial markets' watchdog finishes its probe into the fund manager, it said in a statement. Milford has had a New Zealand active equity mandate from the Guardians since 2009, valued at $281 million.

In February, Auckland-based Milford revealed it was being investigated by the FMA over certain trades by one of the firm's traders. Last month the FMA denied media speculation that the investigation had since been expanded in scope although it hasn't revealed how many people were the subject of the investigation.

In March the FMA said it was seeking market information "as part of our ongoing investigation into trading activity at Milford" and that included "requests for information from some brokers".

At the time of announcing the investigation, Milford said the probe would not have any implications for client funds and there was no impact on the day-to-day operations. In a statement today it said it was surprised by the decision of the Super Fund to suspend the mandate, reiterating the FMA's own statement that the investigation "does not raise concerns about the security or safety of Milford client funds or assets".

"We have not commented on the specifics of the investigation because we respect the due process of the FMA investigation and are bound by a confidentiality order imposed by the FMA," Milford managing director Anthony Quirk said. "We will continue to refrain from any comment that could be seen as undermining the investigation process or pre-empting the outcome. In the meantime we look forward to completion of the investigation and release of any findings."

The FMA said it expects to conclude the final investigation steps in the next few weeks and hopes to make a public announcement at that time or shortly thereafter.