Missed the banking royal commission? Maybe heard something about charging dead people fees and conflicts of interest but didn't tune in? Don't worry, this is what you need to know about the blockbuster fortnight starting on Monday.
Think of it like the AFL or NRL.
We've been through the regular season. There were six public hearings: consumer finance (mortgages, car loans, credit cards), financial advice, small-to-medium enterprises, issues affecting people in remote communities (farmers and Indigenous Australians), superannuation, and insurance
At each of them we have heard from a mixture of regular people who have suffered misconduct by banks, bank executives explaining it and regulators and experts discussing how things could change.
Then there were the early finals; the release of the commission's interim report and the written responses to it.
Why did bad things happen? It was pretty simple, the commissioner Kenneth Hayne reported:
"Too often, the answer seems to be greed — the pursuit of short-term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty," he wrote.
"When misconduct was revealed, it either went unpunished or the consequences did not meet the seriousness of what had been done."
It was all about four groups of issues: access to banking services, the roles and responsibilities of intermediaries — like mortgage brokers and financial planners — issues about responsible lending, and regulation and the regulators.
In February we will have the grand final, when the final report of the commission will be published, including a politically sensitive list of recommendations and the potential for recommending criminal charges over some of the scandals exposed.
But we are not there yet.
Banks, regulator to be called to account
This fortnight sees the preliminary finals, where the chief executives and chairs of some of Australia's largest and richest organisations will be called to account for their institutions' failings and asked how they think things should change.
The line-ups revealed for the prelims are strong. Commonwealth Bank managing director and chief executive officer Matt Comyn, and his chair, Catherine Livingstone AO, can be expected to get in to the action early, within the first week held in Sydney.
The $18-million-man, Macquarie Bank's outgoing chief executive Nicholas Moore — the highest-paid boss of a listed company in Australia — will also front the commission, even though his bank has not had a witness examined during the previous six rounds.
Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) chairman James Shipton will also answer the call. In its response to the interim report, ASIC noted criticism from the commission that it was, essentially, a bit weak:
"ASIC's starting point with potential or actual contraveners is too often either persuasion and education or negotiation and settlement. It too rarely or too slowly moves away from either," Mr Hayne opined.
In public statements, the regulator has promised to muscle up.
The bosses of the rest of the big four banks (ANZ's Shayne Elliott, Westpac's Brian Hartzer, NAB's chief executive Andrew Thorburn and chairman Ken Henry) will appear, some of them in the second week of hearings, held in Melbourne.
They will fit within the salary cap because Mr Thorburn has just received a $2.1 million pay cut prompted by what has come out of the royal commission. In its remuneration report, the bank's board noted "the group CEO (Mr Thorburn) has accepted accountability for NAB's failure to fix mistakes quickly, remediate customers promptly and set things right".
Spectre of structural change will have banks terrified
But what will be asked of these players?
The "letters patent", the rule book underpinning the commission from its outset, made it pretty clear what Mr Hayne was tasked with finding out:
- Whether misconduct was "attributable to the particular culture and governance practices" of an entity
- The "effectiveness of mechanisms for redress for consumers"
- The adequacy of existing laws, internal systems and industry self-regulation
- The "effectiveness and ability of regulators"
- And — the big one for this fortnight — "implications of any changes to laws"
The interim report summarised the issues but did not make any recommendations.
Instead it posed a lot of questions. The final one, on page 347, would terrify banks struggling in the febrile environment of an election year, technological change and increased scrutiny.
"Is structural change in the industry necessary?"
And, with that, it is time for the kick-off/bounce.This article was first published by https://www.abc.net.au
Author: Daniel Ziffer