Australia's $500 billion pool of home loans potentially underpinned by fake customer information – so-called liar loans – will be front and centre as the banking royal commission begins this week.
Witnesses from National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank of Australia and its wholly owned Aussie Home Loans division will be hauled before the royal commission to answer questions about the sale of mortgages by in-house and external home loan brokers.
Late on Monday, the commission revealed three witnesses will be called to give evidence on Tuesday including two senior NAB executives, executive general manager consumer loans Angus Gilfillan and Anthony Waldron, the bank's executive general manager growth partnerships – an area of the bank that takes care of broker relationships.
Karen Cox, the coordinator of advocacy group Financial Rights Legal Centre, will also be called to give evidence at the royal commission on Tuesday.
The industry has been racked by scandals in recent years after it emerged brokers have been driving up their sales of home loans by using applications that included either fake payslips or other fake information to get their clients loans.
“Liar loans” have emerged as a serious issue in the Australian banking industry with around a third of people admitting in a survey they had not been accurate about their financial position when applying for a mortgage. According to an estimate respected banking analyst Jon Mott from UBS that equates one third - or $500 billion - of Australia’s $1.5 trillion residential mortgage book.
One of the first topics on Commissioner Kenneth Hayne’s list this week will be the examination of NAB's program of paying "introducers" - people outside the bank who collect a fee for referring a customer.
NAB revealed in late 2017 that it had sacked 20 employees and disciplined a further 32 staff for breaching its lending policies when issuing 2300 home loans to mostly foreign buyers of Australian property.
Sources said the bank had put in a range of changes to improve its handling and processing of home loans.
It’s not the first time NAB has run into issues with dubious home loans.
In 2007, the NAB sued one of its former staff members and an external home loan broker for allegedly fraudulently borrowing $22.7 million from the bank so that hundreds of people could obtain permanent residency and home loans.
That same eternal home loan broker was later linked to an $170 million alleged home loan fraud in 2015 where a team of external brokers drew up more than 600 home loans using doctored payslips through 12 different banks including CBA and NAB.
CBA mobile lender Andrew Cameron was charged last year over his alleged involvement in the fraud.
In 2016, two other mobile lenders employed by the CBA were implicated in an alleged $76 million fraud by two Melbourne commercial property developers.
However, it is believed the $170 million alleged fraud, thought to be Australia’s largest ever home loan fraud, will not be canvassed by the royal commission as Mr Cameron is still before the courts.
The commission will also look at "fraudulent brokers" within CBA-owned Aussie Home Loans, after the corporate watchdog banned several Aussie brokers in recent years for submitting false or misleading documents.
Again, in some instances this included falsified payslips that indicated the borrower had a large income than they actually did. Some of those applications were for loans from outside the CBA, including loans from ANZ, NAB and Westpac.This article was first published by https://www.smh.com.auAuthor: Sarah Danckert