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Banks 'clean up' advice cases ahead of Senate hearing

Teagan Couper was involved in a legal battle with CBA over her father's life insurance policy. Photo: James Alcock Teagan Couper was involved in a legal battle with CBA over her father's life insurance policy. Photo: James Alcock
Teagan Couper can finally access funds paid out by the Commonwealth Bank for a life insurance policy for her late father, Noel Stevens.

In a now-famous case, Mr Stevens spent his dying days battling the bank, after it refused to pay out a policy when he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

The bank ultimately lost an appeal over the policy in late 2013, but Ms Couper says that when she asked her lawyers about the money, she was told they were still negotiating costs with CBA.

Just last week, she received a call saying the CBA was now acting quickly to finally resolve costs, prompting claims the banks are trying to "clean up" difficult cases ahead of a Senate grilling on Tuesday.

Ms Couper says chief executive Ian Narev's personal assistant even called to apologise and to say the bank thought she had received the money much earlier.

Today, Mr Narev and top executives from Macquarie Group, ANZ Bank and National Australia Bank will appear before a Senate inquiry in Canberra to face questions over problems in their financial planning and wealth divisions.

"It's such a coincidence, it was literally on Friday that it settled," Couper says.

"It's such a coincidence that on Tuesday they're having this big meeting, and then all of a sudden all of these issues just get solved within a day."

Ms Couper says that last week she also found out for the first time that a trust fund had been set up to hold her funds, but she had been unable to access the money.

Nationals senator John Williams also notes the timing of Ms Couper getting her money, and he plans to ask Mr Narev about the delay on Tuesday.

"Last week Teagan got her money. Why did it take from December 2013 to last week to get her money?"

A Commonwealth Bank spokeswoman said the settlement had been paid to Ms Couper's estate in January 2014 "in the expectation that the funds would be paid to the Couper family promptly".

"We did not know that the ongoing discussions about legal fees had delayed the payment to the family. When we very recently discovered this fact we expedited the payment of the legal fees," she said.

Senator Williams said Ms Couper was not alone and he had been told other banks were "ringing up people and settling" before Tuesday's public grilling, which will focus on recent scandals in financial advice.

"I believe other banks were settling as well last week, probably to get this cleaned up before they appear before the committee on Tuesday," Senator Williams said.

ANZ bank last week said it would pay $30 million in compensation to 8500 customers after it failed to provide annual documented reviews, while in February leaked documents revealed National Australia Bank had compensated 750 customers to the tune of $14.5 million in the past five years in response to inappropriate advice.

The committee chairman, Labor's Sam Dastyari, plans to force the bank bosses to confront a group of victims whose lives have been shattered by financial planning scandals in a piece of political theatre designed to chastise them for lacking empathy.

Before the hearings, Senator Dastyari will present four victims of bad advice in Parliament House before the bank leaders  face the committee in the afternoon.

"This is going to provide an opportunity for the victims to present their side of the story. We are then going to be talking to the banks about how they deal with the victims, about what processes they put in place and how they can be improved," Senator Dastyari said.

with James Eyers    
Author: Clancy Yeates
Source: Sydney Morning Herald 

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