Australian banks created broken lives

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Media captionAustralia bank inquiry: ‘They didn’t care who they hurt’

A national inquiry into Australia’s scandal-plagued financial sector has proposed sweeping changes in an attempt to end rampant industry misconduct.

The Royal Commission spent 12 months investigating wrongdoing by some of the nation’s biggest institutions.

It exposed revelations that caused shock nationwide. Prominent scandals included the charging of fees for no service – sometimes to dead customers.

The government said it would act on all 76 recommendations made by the inquiry.

The Royal Commission – Australia’s highest form of public inquiry – came after a decade of scandals that shook confidence in the country’s largest industry.

After the report was made public on Monday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the public had paid an “immense” price for the misconduct.

“It’s a scathing assessment of conduct driven by greed and behaviour that was in breach of existing law and fell well below community expectations,” he said.

“There have been broken businesses, and the emotional stress and personal pain has broken lives.”

What did the inquiry hear?

The Royal Commission received more than 10,000 public submissions. It interviewed over 130 witnesses in public hearings.

Much focus centred on customers who had been exploited – and some left financially ruined – by banks and industry advisers.

The inquiry heard that banks collected fees for non-existent services and some institutions admitted they had even charged fees to dead customers, including the country’s largest lender, Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

The other “Big Four” banks – National Australia Bank, ANZ and Westpac – also came in for scrutiny during the hearings, as did numerous other financial institutions.

What did it recommend?

The report made 76 recommendations for reform, including:

  • More than 20 unidentified cases to be referred on to regulators, resulting in possible criminal or civil prosecutions
  • There should be an overhaul of the sector’s sales culture to reduce conflicts of interest
  • Regulators need to more regularly prosecute breaches, or lose some of their powers.

What happens now?

Mr Frydenberg said the government would move “immediately” to legislate some reforms.

The government has been criticised for initially resisting the probe, which it later described as “regrettable but necessary” action to restore public trust in the system.

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