EXCLUSIVE Australian financial regulators fast-tracked the 2008 takeover of Bankwest by Commonwealth Bank in just “a couple of hours” to head off the almost certain collapse of the regional lender at the height of the global financial crisis.
Former Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens and Australian Competition & Consumer Commission chairman Graeme Samuel told The Weekend Australian that if the deal in October 2008 had not been approved Bankwest would have ceased to be a competitive force.
Mr Samuel said he was given “a couple of hours” to approve a deal that would normally take months of consultation before a verdict was given because of the crisis engulfing financial markets.
“The RBA said that there was no choice — it was crisis stage,” Mr Samuel said.
“It was a deal that was regulator-required and regulator-motivated.”
The hastily approved deal followed a crisis at Bankwest’s Edinburgh-based parent, HBOS, which had to be taken over by Lloyds as the financial crisis spread from the US housing market to the global financial system.
Markets used by the banks to finance lending seized up following the collapse of Lehman Brothers, with the US government being forced to plough more than $US1 trillion into a series of rescues, including insurer AIG and mortgage lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Mr Samuel said the urgency of the deal was driven by HBOS planning to withdraw $16bn of funding lines from Bankwest, then the eighth-biggest bank in the Australian market, in order to reinforce its British capital base.
Bankwest, a significant player in Western Australia that had been pushing to expand on the east coast, would have had to replace that funding in the local market at a time it had seized up. HBOS took an $800m loss on its Australian sale.
The sale also came just weeks after the Australian government took the extraordinary step of guaranteeing bank deposits up to $250,000 as well as wholesale funding lines for the banks to ensure that they could continue to lend.
In an interview with The Weekend Australian, Mr Stevens defended the decisions to allow the mergers that took place during the global financial crisis — which include the $2.1bn purchase of Bankwest and Westpac’s takeover of St George Bank, then the fifth-biggest bank in the country. Westpac entered into merger discussions with St George four months before Lehman collapsed.
Mr Stevens said the mergers were necessary even if they meant a loss of competition, because financial markets made it harder for competitors to finance their activities.
“Well, that competition was gone because that funding wasn’t there any more,” Mr Stevens said.
“So, in a sense the capital markets, the closure of the capital markets or the furious tightening up of availability of that funding, had already delivered a blow to the competitive landscape in that space. That’s what the global capital markets delivered to you.”
Mr Stevens said that in the extraordinary circumstances of the GFC it was “inevitable that there’s going to be some absorption of weaker players by stronger ones”.
“That’s what happens in crises and yes there’s going to be less competition in certain spaces later, but that’s because the business model, what was being used to deliver that competition earlier, isn’t a viable model now.”
The comments cast new light on one of the more controversial aspects of the government and regulatory response to the GFC, with the takeovers reducing competition for deposits and loans and increasing the power of the big four banks as the economy emerged from the GFC.
The deal was one of a number of shotgun weddings arranged through the GFC, including JPMorgan’s deal to buy Bear Stearns in March 2008, and Bank of America taking over Merrill Lynch on the weekend of the Lehman Brothers collapse.
Controversy over CBA’s purchase of Bankwest has lingered for the past decade, with a number of customers alleging they were unjustly dealt with by the new owner.
Mr Stevens said the bank guarantee had helped smaller lenders “proportionately more” because of a flight to quality.
manda Walsh CBA bank are trying to get me to sign their deed of settlement to wipe my $240k debt on their fraudulent loan without compensating me for the $600k i have lost!
I WON'T BE BULLIED!!!! NOT BY ANYONE!!!! LEAST OF ALL, COMMONWEALTH BANK!!!!
If I was to sign, I would be complicit in concealing their crime not only against me, but against every other Australian!!!!
There must be accountability! CBA BANK approved my loan application without giving me full disclosure of how they calculated the affordability of my loan. Had I been given full disclosure, I would have known that it was unaffordable because I discovered last year that initially my loan was rejected as unaffordable and I have the documents to prove it!
After requesting a copy of my Loan Application Form I discovered that they used my gross income and not net income, leaving out $20k a year worth of expenses. There are several other issues with the calculation too like they left out $15k of living expenses.....
ASK YOUR BANK FOR YOUR LOAN APPLICATION FORM AND CHECK IT! Many people have found the banks and brokers have forged signatures, falsified numbers and while you may believe that your loan was affordable and approved correctly, I now know that most loans have fraud in the approval process.
THEY ARE APPROVED BY A COMPUTER NOT A PERSON. Bank customers that I have met personally have found completely false information in their ‘LAF’ like assets and income that don’t exist!!!
LET’S TAKE THESE BASTARDS DOWN!!! They are selling off our country piece by piece!!!
Owners of an apartment complex near Pittsburgh, who wanted to take out a mortgage on the buildings, allegedly made vacant units look occupied by turning on radios, placing shoes and mats outside doors and in one instance having a woman tell inspectors her boyfriend was asleep inside.
The owners obtained a $45.8 million loan, which was wrapped into mortgage securities and sold to investors.
Practices such as these—which were alleged in a federal search-warrant application—have sparked one of the largest mortgage-fraud investigations since the financial crisis. It focuses on whether income from commercial properties was falsified, a move that would enable owners to get larger mortgages and take out cash or expand their businesses faster.
Still in its early stages, the investigation has so far yielded a fraud-conspiracy indictment against four real-estate executives in upstate New York. Loans that some or all of them were involved with totaled about $170 million, the indictment alleges.
Investigators have sought mortgage data on dozens of other apartment buildings, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and interviews with people familiar with the probe. Investigators have looked at student housing and self-storage facilities in addition to apartment complexes.
About $1.5 billion of securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are backed by mortgages from just one developer who has been under scrutiny, according to a Journal analysis of loan data from Thomson Reuters .
Buying SpreeThe purchase of loans on multifamily housing has jumped at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federallysponsored firms that turn mortgages into tradeable securities.Change since 2007Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. attorney in the Western District of New York in Buffalo and the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Inspector General are all working on the probe.
Lax and fraudulent lending on single-family homes played a role in inflating and popping the housing bubble a decade ago. The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul required home borrowers to document their income, and home lenders to verify it.
The rule doesn’t apply to multifamily housing. Lenders in that market review data submitted by borrowers to ensure the properties earn enough to repay loans, but they generally don’t examine every lease to check income. Neither do Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac , the government-sponsored mortgage giants that buy and securitize loans. Credit-rating firms that grade the securities for investors also generally don’t review loans for fraud.
“All the systems will work fine as long as people are being honest,” said Sam Berns, senior vice president at NorthMarq Capital LLC, one of about two dozen firms licensed to originate and sell multifamily mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. If borrowers or their mortgage brokers choose, they can easily submit and certify false numbers, he said. “It’s a fault and a failure within the system.”
One owner of properties investigators reviewed is Robert C. Morgan, the founder of a suburban Rochester, N.Y.-based apartment development company. After a 1991 shooting at his family’s seafood store left him wheelchair-bound, he turned his full attention to real estate and built a business of more than 140 properties with over 34,000 rental units across 14 states, according to its website.
Robert C. Morgan
Robert C. Morgan Photo: Tina MacIntyre-Yee/Democrat and Chronicle/USA TODAY NETWORK
That is nearly triple its apartment holdings in 2010. “There’s a lot of money chasing the multifamily assets, more money than deals,” Mr. Morgan said at a Freddie Mac housing conference last year.
The rapid growth was aided by practices such as creating spreadsheets filled with fake income figures for properties, according to the indictment, returned May 22 in federal court in Buffalo, which charged two executives of his firm. Such conduct “occurred across” the company’s real-estate portfolio, according to a federal search-warrant application for the executives’ emails.
It was at a Morgan property north of Pittsburgh called Rochester Village that the federal indictment alleged the faking of apartment occupancy via radios playing in vacant units. In addition, an executive anticipating an inspection of one building asked a property manager to have employees park their cars in its garage, according to the search-warrant application. The indictment alleged an effort to report apartments as occupied before they even had town occupancy permits.
Deutsche Bank AG had just backed out of a deal to finance the 228-unit property, suspecting its occupancy was misrepresented, according to the document. The owner then obtained a loan via Berkadia Commercial Mortgage LLC, which sold the loan to Freddie Mac.
Deutsche Bank and Berkadia declined to comment.
In another instance, a mortgage broker allegedly created a fake $1.4 million loan on a Morgan complex near Rochester, N.Y., called Avon Commons, according to the indictment, after which Mr. Morgan’s firm refinanced the fake loan with a real one for $6.3 million. The real loan was originated by Arbor Realty Trust Inc., which sold it to Freddie Mac, according to the indictment.
Arbor, which like Berkadia is a Freddie Mac-licensed lender, didn’t comment on the investigation but said it is “committed to strengthening and improving our policies, procedures and protocol to mitigate risk.”
The indictment leveled fraud-conspiracy charges against Todd Morgan and Kevin Morgan, a son and a nephew, respectively, of Robert C. Morgan. It also charged their mortgage brokers, Frank Giacobbe and Patrick Ogiony of Aurora Capital Advisors LLC, a Buffalo firm the indictment said Mr. Giacobbe owned.
All have pleaded not guilty. Mr. Giacobbe had no comment. Lawyers for Mr. Ogiony and Kevin Morgan didn’t respond to requests for comment. Todd Morgan’s lawyer said his client “maintains that he is, in fact, innocent of any and all crimes charged.”
The indictment didn’t charge Robert Morgan or his firm, which until June was called Morgan Management LLC. It has changed its name to Grand Atlas Property Management, and Mr. Morgan has no ownership or employment at the firm, according to a lawyer for Grand Atlas. The lawyer also said Kevin and Todd Morgan are no longer employees.
Robert Morgan and Grand Atlas declined to comment on the investigation.
Morgan loans regularly flowed into Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae securities. About $1.2 billion of Morgan loans currently back Freddie Mac-issued mortgage securities and $350 million of them back Fannie Mae securities, according to the Journal’s analysis.
Federal agents leaving after a May raid on the offices of Morgan Management LLC in the town of Perinton near Rochester, N.Y.
Federal agents leaving after a May raid on the offices of Morgan Management LLC in the town of Perinton near Rochester, N.Y. Photo: Jamie Germano/Democrat and Chronicle/USA TODAY NETWORK
Fannie Mae, in a training course on its website, says, “Multifamily mortgage fraud continues to be a problem nationwide.” The firm said that statement “does not mean to suggest that these issues routinely appear in Fannie Mae loans” or with its lenders. It also said the lenders typically share about a third of the credit risk for any losses.
Freddie Mac said it doesn’t rely just on information submitted by borrowers but also uses third-party data and analytics, and is very confident in its processes. It said all Morgan loans packaged into its securities remain current.
Borrowers can stay current even on loans that are large relative to a property’s earning power if they need to pay only the interest for several years. More and more multifamily loans are structured that way. Mortgages with full or partial interest-only repayment periods made up about 75% of multifamily loans bought by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac last year, more than double the share in 2009, according to data from Trepp LLC, a commercial-mortgage tracker.
Just the InterestIt’s easier to stay current on loans that let theborrower delay some or all of principalpayments, as greater percentages ofmultifamily-housing loans bought by FannieMae and Freddie Mac do.Source: Trepp*Borrower doesn’t start paying down the principaluntil after five or more years
The tally of suspect loans could grow larger because FBI agents have reviewed deals involving several upstate New York developers with ties to Robert Morgan and to Mr. Giacobbe, the mortgage broker Mr. Morgan’s firm sometimes used.
One of those developers, according to documents reviewed by the Journal, is Prime Group Holdings, a Saratoga Springs-based owner of self-storage facilities founded by Robert J. Moser. Prime Group has worked with Mr. Giacobbe, and Mr. Moser said that he and Robert Morgan “enjoyed a very successful business relationship for many years.”
The Avon Commons apartment complex in Avon, N.Y.
The Avon Commons apartment complex in Avon, N.Y. Photo: Pictometry
Until last year, a Moser biography that was on the websites of both Mr. Moser’s and Mr. Morgan’s companies said the two men had together acquired a $4 billion commercial real-estate portfolio. In an email, Mr. Moser said that only some of the transactions involved Mr. Morgan. He also said he stopped doing business with Mr. Morgan ahead of the FBI probe, which “reinforced my decision to separate” from him.
Asked about Mr. Moser’s account, Mr. Morgan replied by text message that it wasn’t correct, but declined to elaborate.
Mr. Moser hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing. He said his attorneys asked the Justice Department whether his transactions were being reviewed and were “told just the opposite.”
Barbara Burns, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney pursuing the probe, said that, in general, “that is a question that we would decline to answer.” She didn’t comment further.
Investigators also have examined properties owned by Thomas Masaschi of DHD Ventures and Brett Fitzpatrick of Somerset Companies, both of whom have sometimes invested with Mr. Morgan and worked with Mr. Giacobbe, according to documents and people familiar with their transactions. Another developer whose properties have been scrutinized, Matthew Cherry of Glendale Development, used to work at Mr. Giacobbe’s Aurora Capital Advisors.
Like Mr. Moser, the three men haven’t been accused of wrongdoing, and it is possible investigators are interested not in the property owners but in other parties involved in their deals.
Mr. Cherry said, “We do not believe Glendale is involved in the matter,” and “I have not been associated with Aurora in more than 5 years.” Mr. Fitzpatrick declined to comment. Mr. Masaschi didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Thanks to a strong economy, delinquencies on multifamily-housing loans have been minimal. Still, investors can eventually take a hit if properties produce less income than expected. That appears likely in one deal that caught the interest of federal investigators: Monarch 815, a 176-unit student-housing complex near East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, which was developed by Mr. Masaschi’s firm.
When the firm obtained a $31.9 million mortgage on the property in 2015, financial information provided to lenders suggested the complex could have net income of about $2.7 million annually, according to Trepp. It earned only $804,266 in 2017, Trepp data show. The borrower was supposed to provide quarterly and annual financial statements and rent rolls to the loan servicer, but repeatedly failed to do so, according to the servicer.
The loan, packaged into mortgage-backed securities, now is in foreclosure, according to Trepp. Mr. Masaschi, who is a managing partner at his firm, DHD, didn’t respond to written questions about the deal.
Separately, two Morgan-linked mortgages totaling $45 million were transferred to a special servicer for handling, according to disclosures the servicer filed last month. The servicer said the properties faced “imminent default.”
FOS "made mistakes" that David cohen promised at Parliament to fix on the same day, 4/4/16, law enforcement was in the CBA to see about things like Al Quada and international bank crimes, and the same day Parliament again wanted a Royal Commission into the banks.
This is the Mastercard and Visa side of the Trainwreck that Elliot Sgargetta said cost American Express billions. The trainwreck came from the arrests by the US' Organized Crime Drug Ebforcement Task Force arrests of Michelle Obama's ex workpal Keila Ravelo. Howard Bowles claims he spoke to a landlord called Glenn Jones about it when Jones said he was evicted. Are landlords evicted in Australia?
The settlement ends a 13-year old suit brought by the nation's leading merchants, which claimed that Visa and MasterCard violated antitrust laws by fixing prices to benefit the banks. It's the largest antitrust settlement ever.
Content by MyFinance
Two Banks That Pay 10 Times The Interest On Your Savings
Two Banks That Pay 10 Times The Interest On Your Savings
An Insane Card Offering 0% APR Until October 2019
An Insane Card Offering 0% APR Until October 2019
Online Savings Account Rates Beat Your Banks
Online Savings Account Rates Beat Your Banks
The suit has been settled before, but the original settlement reached in 2012 was rejected by major merchants as unfair and overturned on appeal. Opponents of the earlier agreement argued it would have limited the retailers' ability to bring future lawsuits and done little to end uncompetitive practices.
The amended settlement represents a $900 million increase over the previous one. The new settlement was disclosed in corporate filings by Visa (V) and MasterCard (MA) early Tuesday. It must still be approved by the court.
Under the new deal, Visa will pay an additional $600 million, while MasterCard will pay an additional $108 million, according to the companies' filings.
MasterCard and Visa said it was an important step to finally reach an agreement with merchants in this case.
"We can put this behind us and focus on continuing to innovate with our merchant partners to deliver the experience and convenience that consumers expect," said Tim Murphy, general counsel for Mastercard.
"After years of thoughtful negotiation, we are pleased to be able to reach this agreement and move forward in our partnership with merchants to provide consumers convenient, reliable, secure ways to pay," said Kelly Mahon Tullier, Visa's general counsel.
But many of the largest merchants in the nation, including Walmart (WMT), Target (TGT) and Kroger (KR), have already opted out of this settlement said Patrick Coughlin, one of the lawyers who brought the case.
Major retailers have the clout to negotiate better deals with Visa and MasterCard than are available to the typical retailer, he said.
"The top 1% of the merchants make up 25% of the nation's commerce," he said. "They were never going to be part of the deal. But this is important for the other 99% who handle the other 75% of purchases."
He said the new settlement is better than the rejected 2012 decision because larger merchants can now drop out without negating the deal for the smaller retailers.
And he said it also will bring more money for those smaller retailers, even though the amount paid by Visa, MasterCard and the banks will be partly reduced by the major retailers pulling out.
"At a minimum, we got them an additional $200 million," he said.
CNNMoney (New York) First published September 18, 2018: 10:07 AM ET
Banking royal commission hears how CommInsure misled the financial ombudsman
By business reporter Michael Janda
Related Story: Insurance telemarketers told to 'sell, sell, sell to get to Bali'
Related Story: Freedom Insurance cold caller targeted man with Down Syndrome
Related Story: Insurer ClearView admits to breaking law with more than 300,000 sales calls
The Commonwealth Bank's life insurance arm, CommInsure, is accused of "serious misconduct" at the royal commission because it misled the Financial Ombudsman Service during its investigation of a customer complaint.
The commission also heard about aggressive retention practices at Freedom Insurance that prevented the vast majority of customer who called up to cancel policies from doing so.
Read the blog to see how the day unfolded.
Note: This is a blog. Posts are organised by date with the newest posts at the top.
Commission will continue with CommInsure tomorrow
Ms Troup gets a break overnight but will be back in the stand tomorrow at 9:45am (AEST).
Today we learnt that CommInsure deliberately left its heart attack definition out of date so that it could refuse claims and thereby increase its profits.
We also learnt that CommInsure misled the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) in its response to a complaint from a heart attack victim who had been denied a full payout.
Earlier in the day, we heard how Freedom Insurance used commissions and targets to motivate an aggressive retention team that made it difficult to cancel unwanted insurance policies.
Wed at 4:30pm (Updated: Wed at 4:52pm)
Hayne humour resurfaces
Michael Janda Wed at 4:30pm (Updated: Wed at 4:52pm)
Wed at 4:28pm (Updated: Wed at 4:28pm)
CMLA motivated by commercial considerations
Ms Troup acknowledges that CMLA's (CommInsure's life insurance division) heart attack definition was left out of date for commercial considerations.
Instead of changing the definition of heart attack it changed the wording of its policies so that they only covered heart attacks of a particular severity, one that met the out of date definitions.
Michael Janda Wed at 4:28pm (Updated: Wed at 4:28pm)
Wed at 4:02pm (Updated: Wed at 4:02pm)
CommInsure's heart attack definition hopelessly out of date
The commission hears that an international group of cardiologists issued an updated universal definition of heart attack in 2007, which noted advances in the sensitivity of measuring equipment meant that a troponin test set at the 99th percentile of a normal reference population was the appropriate standard.
This was the standard that CommInsure eventually adopted in March 2016 — after the Four Corner-Fairfax reports.
There was another update from the international cardiologist group in 2012 that confirmed this definition and said it also should be gender differentiated.
Ms Troup accepts that within CommInsure it was known from at least early 2012 that CommInsure’s definition of heart attack didn’t reflect the universal definition of heart attack.
There was a proposal within CommInsure in September 2011 to update the definition of heart attack in the next product development cycle.
That proposal was not adopted. When asked why, Ms Troup says the decision why not was “not well documented”, although she mentions that pricing may have been one of the factors.
Michael Janda Wed at 4:02pm (Updated: Wed at 4:02pm)
Wed at 3:42pm (Updated: Wed at 3:42pm)
Troup 'happy' with ASIC report
Ms Orr reads out an email from CBA's Clive van Horen (who has appeared in an earlier hearing of the royal commission) that congratulates Ms Troup on the findings of the ASIC report into CommInsure's claims handling, which found no breaches of the law. Ms Troup acknowledges she was happy with the findings.
Orr: "What were you happy about with those findings?"
Troup: "There were some extremely serious allegations made against CommInsure on the Four Corners program and they were found to be unsubstantiated and that was a very good outcome for CommInsure."
Ms Orr points out that, while ASIC found no legal breaches, it did find serious problems with aspects of CommInsure's claims handling.
Michael Janda Wed at 3:42pm (Updated: Wed at 3:42pm)
Wed at 3:37pm (Updated: Wed at 3:47pm)
More appropriate to backdate definitions to 2012
The actual cost of backdating to May 2014 was only $2.5 million. CommInsure had budget up to $22 million for the cost of backdating the definitions to apply from May 2014.
"And was that one of the reasons why CommInsure was able to decide so quickly, after receiving ASIC's final letter, to backdate the definition further to October 2012?"
Ms Troup and CBA's then head of wealth Annabel Spring decided to backdate the definition further to October 2012.
When asked if she thought that was a more appropriate date to backdate to, Ms Troup said "yes".
Conveniently, the decision to backdate further to October 2012 was conveyed to ASIC the day before it was putting out a media release on the topic.
Ms Troup is later asked whether it would have been more appropriate to update the heart attack definitions back in 2012 and she says "yes".
Michael Janda Wed at 3:37pm (Updated: Wed at 3:47pm)
Wed at 3:16pm (Updated: Wed at 3:16pm)
Commission sceptic converted
Stockbroker and ABC regular Marcus Padley told News Breakfast this morning that he originally thought the financial services royal commission would be a politically-driven waste of time.
But he's now changed his mind.
"The sooner changes happen the better, and ASIC need to pull their finger out as well because they are obviously underfunded.
"And you know, for ClearView, they gave them a slap on the wrists … they didn't punish them.
"It's got to change. This industry has being rooting us for years."
'They've been rooting us for years': Is this the definitive take on the banking royal commission?
Michael Janda Wed at 3:16pm (Updated: Wed at 3:16pm)
Wed at 3:06pm (Updated: Wed at 3:06pm)
ASIC report into CommInsure
The commission is now questioning Ms Troup about ASIC's review of CommInsure's claims handling processes.
The ASIC report concluded the CommInsure had not breached the law, but there were "a number of areas of concern" that the regulator expected to be fixed.
This was the ABC's reporting at the time.
ASIC's CommInsure report finds no breaches of the law
Whistleblower's lawyer slams ASIC's report on CommInsure
Michael Janda Wed at 3:06pm (Updated: Wed at 3:06pm)
Wed at 3:02pm (Updated: Wed at 3:02pm)
ASIC found CommInsure 'likely to mislead' FOS
The ASIC review of the complaint forwarded by FOS found that CommInsure's interactions with FOS were likely to mislead and in fact did mislead FOS.
When asked what action ASIC took, it emerges that the regulator basically told CommInsure not to do it again and to implement changes to ensure it didn't happen again.
Michael Janda Wed at 3:02pm (Updated: Wed at 3:02pm)
Wed at 2:47pm (Updated: Wed at 2:50pm)
FOS accused CommInsure of 'serious misconduct'
The commission hears that CommInsure withheld information from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) delaying the dispute resolution process and potentially prejudicing the outcome for the complainant.
FOS formed the view that CommInsure's actions may amount to "serious misconduct".
However, CommInsure disputed the conclusion that it had engaged in serious misconduct or attempted to deliberately mislead FOS.
FOS described CommInsure's response as "not persuasive" and reported the matter to ASIC for further investigation.
Michael Janda Wed at 2:47pm (Updated: Wed at 2:50pm)
Wed at 2:25pm (Updated: Wed at 2:55pm)
CommInsure misled FOS
The commission hears that CommInsure misled the Financial Ombudsman Service into thinking that it had not assessed the claimant against the new heart attack criteria.
This occurred through the redaction of part of a document sent to FOS by the group customer relations officer plus a sentence in CommInsure's response stating that the company did not want to do a new assessment, implying that one had not already been done.
CommInsure did in fact have a medical opinion that found the insured did meet the updated heart attack definition.
Ms Troup says this was an unacceptable response by CommInsure.
Michael Janda Wed at 2:25pm (Updated: Wed at 2:55pm)
Wed at 1:10pm (Updated: Wed at 1:10pm)
Commission breaks for lunch
The commission is breaking for lunch a little later than the usual 1:00pm (AEST), so Commissioner Hayne is sneaking in a few extra minutes of break, with the hearing set to resume at 2:15pm (AEST).
In the meantime, have a listen to Peter Ryan's excellent summary of the morning's key points on The World Today.
LISTEN: "Bloody whinger" - Freedom Insurance staffer derides Down Syndrome man trying to cancel policy
Michael Janda Wed at 1:10pm (Updated: Wed at 1:10pm)
Wed at 12:58pm (Updated: Wed at 12:58pm)
Custom claim denied despite updated definitions
While CommInsure updated its heart attack definitions, it continued to reject the claim from the case study currently being examined by the commission.
That is because the claim was made in January 2014, months before the backdating applied to the updated definitions.
Michael Janda Wed at 12:58pm (Updated: Wed at 12:58pm)
Wed at 12:48pm (Updated: Wed at 12:48pm)
CBA expedited updated heart attack definitions
The commission hears that CommInsure responded to the media reports on its outdated heart attack definitions by bringing forward an update that was due to be completed by October 2016.
This update was brought forward to March 10 and backdated to apply to claims made after May 11, 2014, the last time the bank had updated its product disclosure statement.
Michael Janda Wed at 12:48pm (Updated: Wed at 12:48pm)
Wed at 12:39pm (Updated: Wed at 12:39pm)
Claims approval process and definition of heart attack
The royal commission is examining Ms Troup about CommInsure's claims approval process and definitions of a heart attack.
Ms Orr asks what the relationship was between case managers and CommInsure's medical team.
Ms Troup says the two were independent groups, and the case manager had the final say based on advice from the doctors.
We are hearing about one specific case of a claimant who claimed on their trauma insurance due to a heart attack.
However, CommInsure's doctor gave a medical opinion that the claimant didn't meet the criteria for a heart attack, which centred on the levels of certain enzymes and ECG readings that indicate a heart attack has taken place.
CommInsure paid a partial benefit because he met the definition for another heart condition.
Michael Janda Wed at 12:39pm (Updated: Wed at 12:39pm)
Wed at 12:20pm (Updated: Wed at 12:20pm)
CMLA (CommInsure) witness takes the stand
We're now hearing from Helen Troup, who is the managing director of CommInsure and has been since April 2014 and is giving evidence about CMLA (the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd) — the company responsible for life insurance.
Helen Troup, managing director of CommInsure
Both life and general insurance are issued under the CommInsure brand.
In 2017, CBA sold its life insurance business to AIA, but the transaction hasn't completed yet, so CMLA is still within CommInsure.
Michael Janda Wed at 12:20pm (Updated: Wed at 12:20pm)
Wed at 11:45am (Updated: Wed at 11:45am)
Claims handling in life insurance
We are about to hear from CommInsure's managing director Helen Troup, which looks set to focus on the company's claims handling process and denied claims.
Ms Troup's LinkedIn profile says she has been in charge at CommInsure since April 2014.
The Four Corners-Fairfax investigation into CommInsure and its denial of payouts was one of the key factors behind the push for a royal commission.
CommInsure tried to avoid payouts to dying: whistleblower
ASIC found no evidence that CommInsure broke the law, in a review completed early last year. Let's see if the royal commission agrees.
ASIC's CommInsure report finds no breaches of the law
The Commonwealth Bank has since sold off CommInsure, although the company's products are still sold by the bank under a 20-year partnership agreement.
CBA sells CommInsure Life for $3.8b, considers $4b Colonial sell-off
Michael Janda Wed at 11:45am (Updated: Wed at 11:45am)
Wed at 11:27am (Updated: Wed at 11:27am)
Orr reads summary of insurer statements
Senior counsel assisting the commission Rowena Orr is currently reading out a lengthy list of insurer statement summaries.
These statements analyse what accidental death policies are offered in the market, how many policies were sold, how many claims were made and what proportion were denied.
Basically it highlights how few successful accidental death claims are made. Some companies did not have a single successful claim.
By far the most common reason for denial was that the death was not accidental. This obviously depends considerably on the definition of an accidental death.
Michael Janda Wed at 11:27am (Updated: Wed at 11:27am)
Wed at 11:07am (Updated: Wed at 11:07am)
Freedom is expanding rapidly
The banking royal commission hears that Freedom Insurance is expanding rapidly.
While it has a very small share of the insurance market for existing policies, the commission hears it is getting about 10-12 per cent of new policies.
Freedom is acquiring St Andrews insurance, which featured in an earlier commission hearing about the mis-selling of funeral insurance to Indigenous communities by Select.
Media releases from Freedom say the takeover will "assist it to diversify its products".
Mr Orton says St Andrews is strong in the loan protection insurance area — that is insurance to cover loan repayments in the event of unemployment, illness, etc, depending on the terms of the policy.
Michael Janda Wed at 11:07am (Updated: Wed at 11:07am)
Wed at 10:37am (Updated: Wed at 2:37pm)
Sales agent's 'sad face' on Stewart case
The royal commission is hearing evidence about the internal communications between sales agents in response to Mr Stewart's complaints about his son, who has Down syndrome, being sold a policy over the phone that he he didn't understand.
Mr Stewart rang to complain about the policy sold to his son and to have it cancelled.
One of the communications between two sales agents featured 25 sad face emoticons about the Stewart case after the other agent denied a request by Mr Stewart's father.
Mr Stewart was described as a "bloody whinger" by another staff member in an instant messenger chat.
"His son sounds not normal tho. strange. But the dad sounds like he's gonna take it further."
"I don't know what he expects to get out of it lol."
Mr Orton expressed his disgust with the staff response.
“That sort of behaviour - it was a young company at the time - was totally inappropriate.”
When Mr Stewart rang back again in a second attempt to cancel his son's policy, his call was forwarded to the retention unit, which, as we have heard, is incentivised to "save" policies from cancellation.
Michael Janda Wed at 10:37am (Updated: Wed at 2:37pm)
Wed at 10:26am (Updated: Wed at 10:26am)
Retention staff judged on keeping people in policies
The commission hears that one of the key performance indicators (KPIs) for retention staff is a "save percentage" — that is the proportion of customers they persuade not to cancel their policies.
Orr: “It’s the primary KPI?”
Orton: “I would say so yes.”
The commission hears that these retention agents receive a base salary plus commission.
Mr Orton says only 20-30 per cent of the retention staff currently receive a commission, but these payments can be substantial.
“Some of them earn decent commissions probably similar to the sales agents if not higher.”
The company says it will be removing commission payments for these staff.
Michael Janda Wed at 10:26am (Updated: Wed at 10:26am)
Wed at 10:12am (Updated: Wed at 10:31am)
'Not taking no for an answer'
Mr Orton said he listened to 400 sales and retention calls after taking on the role as Freedom chief operating officer, as part of a review requested by the corporate regulator ASIC.
Mr Orton says many of these calls were retention calls and he found the standard of conversations unacceptable in many cases.
“It needed a lot of work ... in some instances it was far too difficult for customers to cancel."
“Not taking no for an answer on certain calls … that is something I will not allow to happen in the future.”
Ms Orr points out that some customers have reported to ASIC or written on public forums that they were hung up on while attempting to cancel a policy. Mr Orton says he is aware that some customers have reported difficulties.
"I'm not aware of customers being hung up on ... I am aware of some wait times."
Michael Janda Wed at 10:12am (Updated: Wed at 10:31am)
Wed at 10:06am (Updated: Wed at 10:06am)
Most policyholders talked out of cancelling
Freedom Insurance received 37,500 calls to cancel policies — 75 per cent of policyholders told the company they either didn't want or couldn't afford the cover.
However, only 8,118 callers, or 28.5 per cent, successfully cancelled their policy during the call.
In contrast, 12,720 callers (44.7 per cent) were persuaded to retain their policies without change and a further 7,598 (26.7 per cent) resulted in retention with alterations.
Michael Janda Wed at 10:06am (Updated: Wed at 10:06am)
Wed at 9:55am (Updated: Wed at 9:58am)
Freedom retention strategy in the
Big Law Partner Disbarred After Bilking Firms, Client for $7.8M
Facebook BBNA Linkedin BBNA Twitter BBNA Email BBNA Print BBNA
By Mindy L. Rattan - Bloomberg Law
July 5, 2018
• Former Hunton & Williams and Willkie Farr partner pleaded guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion
• Lawyer helped ex-convict husband form two litigation support companies, directed nearly $8 million in unearned fees to them
Keila Ravelo, a former partner at Hunton & Williams and Willkie Farr & Gallagher, was disbarred in New York for approving payments of nearly $8 million to her ex-convict husband’s companies in exchange for “little or no services.”
Ravelo’s disbarment was retroactive as of her November 2017 guilty plea to federal wire fraud and tax evasion charges. Sentencing is pending in that case.
In its opinion, the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, First Department said a New York statute automatically disbarred Ravelo when she pleaded guilty to the felony of conspiracy to commit federal wire fraud. That offense doesn’t exist under New York state law. But because the elements of the similar New York felony of scheming to defraud were met, the statute applied to disbar Ravelo, the court said.
As reported in a 2015 article in Bloomberg Businessweek, in the 1990s, Ravelo and fellow associate at Sidley Austin, Gary Friedman, represented convicted cocaine dealer Melvin Feliz in a civil suit alleging the DEA beat him up. Ravelo later married Feliz.
Years later, Ravelo defended MasterCard in antitrust litigation regarding the fees it charged merchants. Friedman represented merchants suing MasterCard, as well as those separately suing American Express.
In 2012, two litigation support companies the couple started were identified by the DEA, while looking into the source of funds Feliz’s associate used for an attempted cocaine buy, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.
Just before Christmas in 2014, Ravelo was arrested, the federal court in the AmEx case said. Ravelo and Feliz were accused of conspiring to defraud Hunton, Willkie, and MasterCard by submitting false invoices for several million dollars to two litigation support vendors they controlled, the AmEx court said.
The criminal complaint alleges that Ravelo approved “many, if not all,” payments totaling over $5 million to one of the vendors while she was at Hunton and Willkie, and $750,000 to another vendor. For all payments, the complaint alleges the vendors provided “little or no services.”
The government claimed that the payments made to the vendors either were used directly to pay for the couple’s personal expenses, including $250,000 to a jewelry store, or were transferred to their personal joint account.
After Willkie learned Ravelo was under investigation, she resigned, the AmEx court said. Willkie’s internal investigation uncovered emails between Ravelo and Friedman containing confidential information about the latter’s clients, the AmEx court said.
As a result, the AmEx court rejected the proposed class settlement: “Friedman’s bringing MasterCard’s counsel into the negotiating process created a conflict between class members and Class Counsel, and specifically a risk that Friedman, with Ravelo in his ear, negotiated settlement terms that are worse for class members than the terms he might have negotiated absent that conflict. This risk requires the court to deny approval of the Settlement.” That settlement would have resulted in $75 million in fees to Friedman’s firm and the other plaintiffs’ lawyers.
Ravelo’s sentencing is scheduled for September 2018. In her plea agreement, which the court isn’t bound to adopt, she agreed to serve between 48 and 72 months in jail, with three years of supervised release. In a consent judgment Ravelo agreed to forfeit the proceeds of the sale of properties in New Jersey, New York, and Miami, as well as her 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur Sedan, to satisfy the roughly $8 million traced to the fraud.
The case is Matter of Ravelo, 2018 BL 230648, N.Y. App. Div., No. M-1366, 6/28/18.
Three American executives are among those indicted in Colombia for alleged crimes against humanity, related to a 2007 criminal case against Chiquita Brands International Inc. for funding right-wing terrorist groups in that country.
The three, according to names published by UPI, are:
John Olivo, formerly Chiquita’s controller for North America, and now president of its online Fresh Express unit, based in Orlando, which delivers fresh salads and produce.
Dorn Wenninger, formerly chief administrative officer of Chiquita Colombia. Since 2016 he has been vice president of perishables for Walmart Mexico.
Charles Keiser, formerly Chiquita’s vice president for global sourcing and production. Since 2015 he has been president and founder of Florida-based Tropical Agriculture Consulting, helping startups in developing countries improve existing supply chains from field to market delivery.
None of the three men could immediately be reached for comment.
They are believed to be the only Americans who were part of a 13-person group indicted in Colombia on Sept. 1. Earlier news reports did not immediately name the defendants, and even recent ones did not identify their titles or current roles.
A 2017 lawsuit filed by U.S. families against Chiquita accused it of being responsible for the decade-old deaths of five central Florida missionaries and an Alabama geologist slain by Colombian rebels. That suit was settled in February, during jury selection for a trial in U.S. district court in West Palm Beach.
Terms of the settlement were confidential; but the families were seeking tens of millions of dollars.
Two Brazilian companies purchased Chiquita in 2015, and moved its U.S. headquarters from Cincinnati to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
It was just one of many lawsuits Chiquita has faced since 2007 when it became the only American corporation ever to confess to financing a designated global terrorist group in a U.S. criminal case. It agreed to pay a $25 million fine.
Chiquita general counsel Robert Olson was deeply involved in advising the company to make the illegal payments and has always argued that it was the right move at the time. The money bought protection for the company’s employees and banana plantations. But it also paid to better arm the rebels.
Warned by outside counsel that funding foreign terrorists is a federal crime, court records show that Olson responded, “Just let them sue us, come at us.”
For more than 10 years Olson and Chiquita have been living with the constant threat of litigation over that decision.
The indictments by the Colombian Attorney General’s Office are the first in Colombia, but more charges are expected, according to news reports. The payments took place in the late 1990s and early 2000s. There is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity.
They did find child exploitation rackets and boiler rooms. Someone should talk to Tina Stagliano and her co workers that it all came true!
Qld organised crime inquiry: Investment fraud flourishing while police focus on bikies
Posted Fri 30 Oct 2015, 6:42pm
Updated Fri 30 Oct 2015, 7:01pm
Download (7.28 MB) Download 7.28 MB
The head of the commission of inquiry into organised crime in Queensland says child exploitation and other forms of crime have been flourishing in the state because police were focussing too much on outlaw bikies. The inquiry found that bikies commit a tiny proportion of total crime and it recommended resources be shifted to other areas.
TIM PALMER: The head of the commission of inquiry into organised crime in Queensland says child exploitation and other forms of crime have been flourishing in the state because police were focussing too much on outlaw bikies.
The inquiry found that bikies commit a tiny proportion of total crime and it recommended resources be shifted to other areas, among them investment fraud, which the inquiry says has become endemic in Queensland and is victimising people across Australia.
MARK SOLOMONS: As soon as she won office in the Queensland state election in January, Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk launched an inquiry into organised crime in the state.
ANNASTACIA PALASZCZUK: It will be able to compel witnesses to give evidence about their involvement in organised crime and reveal their knowledge of organised crime. The commission will also be able to compel people to reveal the names of other organised crime figures known to them and the extent of the involvement in organised crime of those people.
MARK SOLOMONS: It came amid a public backlash against the previous Newman LNP government's tough anti-bikie laws. The results are in and they are unequivocal.
Here's commissioner Michael Byrne QC answering reporters' questions today.
REPORTER: The focus by the Newman government on outlaw motorcycle gangs came at the expense of what other organised crime?
MICHAEL BYRNE: To answer that simply - all forms of other organised crime.
MARK SOLOMONS: The inquiry found child exploitation offences in particular have been going unchecked.
MICHAEL BYRNE: From what we observed and what we were told it is endemic in Queensland.
MARK SOLOMONS: The Premier says the results are shocking and promises an immediate response.
ANNASTACIA PALASZCZUK: Obviously there is not enough resources targeted at this area so my immediate response would be to talk to the police commissioner to sound him out.
MARK SOLOMONS: The inquiry also made findings and recommendations in relation to white collar crime.
Commissioner Byrne again.
MICHAEL BYRNE: Queensland, it was discovered, was the epicentre of boiler rooms, boiler rooms being organised groups who sell financial products or services which are essentially fraudulent to persons around Australia.
MARK SOLOMONS: In the face of this threat, the inquiry discovered the Queensland Police Service had just five detectives in its fraud squad. By contrast it found there were 200 detectives assigned to tackling bikie related crime, which represented just half of 1 per cent of all crime in the previous 21 months.
The inquiry recommends a rebalancing of resources and the setting up of a special task force to investigate investment fraud.
It's vindication for private investigator Ken Gamble who gave evidence to the commission about his attempts over many years to get the Queensland Fraud Squad to take boiler room crime seriously.
KEN GAMBLE: I always described it as an epidemic of fraud and this has been supported by police officers and other people that have been involved in these investigations. Other senior management within the QPS have disagreed.
MARK SOLOMONS: Fraud victim Jacqueline Schneider also welcomed the recommendation for a special task force.
JACQUELINE SCHNEIDER: Well I applaud that and that shows that it's been insightful, and that they have actually looked at this particular kind of cyber crime.
MARK SOLOMONS: Queensland's Opposition LNP today defended their position on bikie crime. This is how shadow attorney-general Ian Walker responded to the inquiry's findings.
IAN WALKER: Well we make no apology for our focus on criminal gangs. As you know, that derived from a circumstance down on the Gold Coast where bikies were attacking the police station. You either stand up to that or you let it go ahead.
MARK SOLOMONS: The QPS says it's carefully considering the inquiry's findings but provides no other comment and declines to provide anyone for interview.
The Premier says all the findings will go to a government task force examining the state's bikie laws. That's due to report at the end of March.
Denise thinks, at the 22 minute mark, that the Americans will file proceedings, and at 54 minutes she says she thinks Royal Commissioner Hayne sees a cartel 'acting as one'. Isn't a cartel a racketeering enterprise?