ASIC sues ‘Debt Vulture’ Solve My Debt Now, and Director

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Proceedings have commenced against operator of Solve My Debt Now, Bakken Holdings Pty Ltd (Bakken). The case is brought to the Federal Court by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) over concerns of substantial consumer harm in a move that has been welcomed by consumer advocates.

ASIC alleges that Bakken/Solve My Debt Now used false and/or misleading representations and paid less than a third of the $3.6 million collected from customers to creditors despite claiming to manage debt, on-pay creditors, and negotiate to reduce debt – to the point where only 5.3% of customers saw a reduction in debt after Solve My Debt Now’s fees and 64% of customers had no payments made to creditors at all.

Dr Merrilyn Mansfield, director and co-owner of Bakken, is also being sued by ASIC over her involvement in some of the alleged false or misleading representations.

Consumer Action Law Centre (known as CALC or Consumer Action), which operates the free, independent National Debt Helpline service on 1800 007 007, is in strong support ASIC’s actions with CEO Stephanie Tonkin quoted as saying:

“ASIC’s allegations against Solve My Debt Now suggest that the company uses a classic debt vulture model, preying on vulnerable people who desperately need help with their finances, which is egregious especially during today’s cost-of-living crisis,”

“Debt consolidation or credit repair services are inherently problematic because their goal is to get money out of a person already struggling to pay their existing debts”.

Consumer Action CEO Stephanie Tonkin in a CALC media release (10/08/2023),

As part of its case, ASIC alleges that starting in April 2020 and ending in June 2022 Bakken:

  • engaged in a system of conduct or pattern of behaviour which was, in all the circumstances, unconscionable;
  • made false and misleading representations to customers about the benefits and qualities of its service; and
  • carried on a financial services business without the appropriate licence.
ASIC media release (10/08/2023),

Solve My Debt Now does not have a licence, and if these allegations are proven, my hope is that they never will,” said Ms Tonkin.

For more information from ASIC on the case, including a concise statement, click here.

  • If you are having trouble keeping up with bills or loan repayments, contact your lender and ask for help. ASIC’s Moneysmart has information on asking for financial hardship assistance.
  • If you need additional support with getting on top of debt, call the free National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 and speak to a financial counsellor. You can also use the financial counsellors map available on ASIC’s Moneysmart website to find a counsellor in your area.
  • Experiencing financial stress can impact your mental health. If you’re concerned about your mental wellbeing, help is available. Contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36 (24 hours a day).

ASIC media release (10/08/2023),