Thank you for your standard response, it is just as I anticipated.
Even though I have pages & pages of documented evidence showing the 'Document Tampering, Forgery & Fraud' and I also have a letter from FOS to the CBA stating that 'CBA are guilty of maladministration', you still choose to ignore this evidence! Shocking!
Please can you advise me : WHO reviewed the decision, & WHO made the decision that the outcome was appropriate?
And also, can you send me a copy of their report with their final recommendations.
As I am considering getting the CBA's 'independent' customer advocate to take a proper look at the case, I would like to know WHO are the customer advocates & what are their qualifications to enable them to be 'independent' customer advocates?
Please can you supply me with a list of their names & qualifications.
“There are a series of particular questions emerging from the CommInsure case, which together yield a question capable of a more general statement about whether departure from steps required by FOS’ terms of reference is itself simply conduct falling short of community standards or, if it were established, a form of misconduct at least in the form of breach of contract,” Mr Hayne said.
“It occurs to me that there is at least some textual footing in the terms of reference as they stood as amended at 1 January 2015 for the notion that the terms of reference bind the financial services provider.”
Mr Hayne read out a section of the FOS terms of reference, which states:These terms of reference are binding upon financial service providers.
“Presumably the mechanism is contract? Perhaps contract in light of statutory obligations. But ultimately, contract,” Mr Hayne said.
“Now, financial services providers in their submissions can no doubt tell me how and why that is or is not the case.”
The commissioner’s comments follow the appearance of CommInsure managing director Helen Troup as witness on Wednesday, 12 September.
Would this article from 2003 apply to a bank that was caught sending funds for terrorists like Al Quada, according to the Weekend Australian piece 'From Beirut to Bankstown"? scholarship.law.nd.edu/cgi/viewcontent.c...le=1499&context=ndlr. Would foreign officials face military trial as in the case of GW Bush's friends' family that were foreclosed on by the same bank even though the QC told the Court that the bank knew what was going on, ie fake mortgages, foreclosures of victims, and proceeds going through casinos in Hong Kong and Australia and Las Vegas?
Standing Committee on Economics - 11/10/2018 - Review of Australia's four major banks - CBA's Matt Comyn & David Cohen
COHEN, Mr David, Group Chief Risk Officer, Commonwealth Bank of Australia
COMYN, Mr Matthew, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Commonwealth Bank of Australia
Committee met at 09:15
CHAIR ( Mr Tim Wilson ): I declare open this hearing of the House of Representatives' Standing Committee on Economics for the review of the four major banks. This is the fourth round of hearings that the committee is undertaking as part of its review. These hearings provide an important opportunity to scrutinise the bank CEOs following the shocking revelations of the royal commission. Commissioner Hayne's interim report identified incentives in banks that are against the interests of customers and have led to appalling conduct that is contrary to law, yet either this misconduct has gone unpunished or the consequences have not met the seriousness of what has occurred and must be addressed. These hearings will also be an important opportunity to follow-up on unresolved issues from earlier hearings and to consider how best to ensure that appalling behaviour is not repeated without inhibiting the banks' essential contribution to grease our economy.
In November 2016, the committee published its first report, which followed the first round of hearings in October 2016. The report contained 10 recommendations for reform of the banking sector, including calling for new legislation and other regulatory changes to improve the operation of the banking sector for Australian consumers. In its second report in April 2017, following its March round of hearings, the committee reaffirmed the 10 recommendations in its first report and made an additional recommendation that non-monetary default clauses be abolished for loans to small businesses. In its third report in December 2017, following its October round of hearings, the committee made four recommendations, including that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission examine the major banks' repricing of interest-only mortgages that occurred in June 2017. The committee anticipates the ACCC's analysis of this repricing will be included in the final report of its inquiry into residential mortgage products, which is due on 19 November 2018.
I would also like to outline a number of matters related to the conduct of today's hearings. I refer members and witnesses to the House's resolution related to procedures for dealing with witnesses at page 123, paragraph 9 of the House of Representatives' standing orders. I know you all have it by your bedside! The resolution provides that should a witness refuse to answer a question, they should be asked to state the grounds on which they object. The committee may either accept that objection or alternatively deliberate at a future private meeting on whether or not to insist upon an answer. If the committee does not consider the matter in private, it may write to the witness with the outcome of its discussions. During the course of the hearing, witnesses may be asked to provide documents at a later stage. If a witness subsequently refuses to provide documents, the committee may meet in private to consider the matter. Under standing order 236 of the House of Representatives, the committee has the power to compel witnesses to produce documents where the committee has made a decision that the circumstances warrant such an order.
I am also mindful that today we have a parliamentary hearing on an important matter and a subject that draws strong emotions. One of the important principles of having a parliamentary hearing is to make sure it's held with decorum and respect between the witnesses and, of course, the parliamentary members. I also encourage that, while this is a public hearing and the public is most welcome to attend, we try to conduct these in a civilised and respectful fashion and that the questions and answers are between the witnesses and the parliamentary members.
We have representatives from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia present for today's hearing. I remind you that although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, the hearings are legal proceedings of the parliament and warrant the same respect as proceedings of the House. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. I now invite you to make an opening statement.
Mr Comyn : I'd like to share with you the actions we are taking to make Commonwealth Bank a better and simpler bank by improving our culture, putting our customers first and making changes to the way we work. Our customers and the community rightly expect that we always do the right thing, but we have seen far too many instances of unacceptable customer outcomes. As the royal commission has shown, there have unfortunately been failures of judgement, failures of process, failures of leadership and, in some instances, greed. We have been too slow to identify problems, too slow to fix underlying issues and too slow to put things right for customers. We became complacent. Our capability has been inadequate in critical areas, particularly operational risk and compliance. We have underinvested in prevention, even though we have invested significantly in customer remediation. This is completely unacceptable.
Since I became CEO six months ago, I have been focused on earning back trust and the reputation of the Commonwealth Bank by driving change and fixing every one of these underlying issues. That change started at the highest level of management, where I have appointed six new leaders to my executive team. Executives across the organisation have faced consequences for our failures. Some have been terminated and there has been a $100 million impact on remuneration. Accountability has not been clear enough inside the Commonwealth Bank. To address this, we have extended the government's new Banking Executive Accountability Regime across more than 90 executives.
The inquiry APRA commissioned into the Commonwealth Bank last year, and its 35 recommendations, provide a road map for the necessary changes for our organisation. We have embraced the report as a critical but fair assessment of our shortcomings. We are implementing the recommendations in full and reporting to the regulator on our progress. We have set clear values and expectations for all of our people and mandated a new code of conduct across the organisation. We have changed the structure of remuneration to reduce the reliance on financial measures. We will continue to examine what more can be done in this area. In June of this year, we announced a decision to demerge our wealth and mortgage broking businesses into a separately listed entity to simplify the bank and allow each business to focus on its core activities and customers. This week we announced further reforms to improve outcomes for customers in our wealth business, including the rebating of grandfathered commissions to customers.
We have also taken a range of actions to benefit retail customers. We have changed incentives for branch staff and have introduced stronger oversight of mortgage brokers. We have strengthened how we lend responsibly with more granular inquiry into our customers' financial circumstances. We are making it easier for customers to choose the right product by simplifying our product range, including across our home loans by reducing the number of products from eight to four. For our small business customers, we have made our contracts fairer by removing clauses that were one-sided. We have expanded our definition of a small business so that more customers can benefit from our new shorter and simpler contracts. We have established a dedicated team to assist small business customers facing difficult times.
I recently wrote to our 8½ million customers about what we are doing to become a simpler, better bank. I have so far received more than 9,000 responses to that letter. We recognise the changes are only the beginning, and we are committed to doing the work necessary to earn the community's trust. I understand why this committee, our customers and the community may be sceptical about any words or promises. I accept that and understand that you will judge me and the Commonwealth Bank on our actions. I welcome your questions.
CHAIR: Thank you very much, Mr Comyn. To open up, I think a lot of Australians are sceptical of the statements that are going to be made by bank CEOs in front of this inquiry. There is a concern that, as you yourself highlighted, there haven't been the right things done, there have been failures, people have been too slow to act and there has been a degree of complacency. That was all highlighted in the royal commissioner's interim report. How did the report make you feel when you read it?
Mr Comyn : Well, I'd say two things. First of all, before the report was published, I can say that the worst part of the overall royal commission process was, of course, listening to individual customer cases, one of whom in recent weeks I actually met with personally. Of course, where there are any instances—and one instance is too many—where a customer has been let down by the actions of the Commonwealth Bank, that is completely unacceptable, and I have previously apologised unreservedly. For me, reading the interim report, of course, is a culmination of some of those individual customer cases and, as I said at the outset, there were a number of significant failures on our part. Those failures are our fault, and we are working very hard to address those failures.
CHAIR: In your opening statement, you made a series of statements about what the CBA's policy response has been to the interim report and what's been unfolded from the royal commission so far. What processes have been taking place around the ongoing adjustment and ongoing preparedness of CBA to address not just issues that have arisen to date but those that are going to arise into the future?
Mr Comyn : Well, as I said this week, we announced changes to remuneration practices and specifically the rebating to customers of commissions that were previously grandfathered. That's one of the changes that we have made, including also rebating what we consider to be outdated fees and charges. We have also removed some of the exceptions to when FOFA was previously introduced, including the requirement to now ensure that all customers are actively opting into an ongoing service provision by our advisers and ensuring, effectively, that we are now implementing FOFA as it was originally designed in full.
Our approach throughout our customer remediation cases has been to go back as far as practical. In the case of some of the most reprehensible conduct that's been identified at the royal commission, including the unauthorised charging of customers from deceased estates, we have said this week that we have commenced that thorough review process to go back seven years. We have already been through more than 140,000 customers but only over a three-month period, and we want to extend that back. So we absolutely are committed to ensuring that, where we have done the wrong thing by our customers, they are remediated in full and particularly on a prompt basis, which is one of the areas where we have been unable to demonstrate the right level of speed in terms of the way we remediate our customers.
CHAIR: You just highlighted the intention of CBA to implement FOFA in full, in the spirit of its intent, as well as the remediation you have taken around deceased estates. Why do you think it took a royal commission to justify the bank taking such steps?
Mr Comyn : In response to one of your earlier questions, Chair, for us, of course, a royal commission is an incredibly important process for us to contribute to and to really analyse and get to the root cause of those failures. It's not the sole thing that we're relying on this year. We have had the benefit, as I said in my introduction, of a very thorough review by an independent panel, which was a very critical report but, as I said, a fair report. I think that report also, as part of those 35 recommendations, goes to the heart of some of those failures inside the organisation. We have a comprehensive program which we are reporting on externally.
Going specifically to your question—why did it require this?—I don't think there is an acceptable explanation that I can provide to the committee, other than to say some of the things that I mentioned in my opening comments, which are that we have been too slow to get to the root cause, we haven't fixed the issues and, whilst we have invested in things like customer remediation, we simply haven't done enough to prevent instances from recurring. We have worked a lot on improving the overall customer satisfaction, but we haven't put enough time, effort and resource into making sure that we're fixing some of the causes that would lead to the most dissatisfied customer event. Of course, it is absolutely critical that we're able to do that in a way that means both that our customers feel the differences of the organisation and that we can demonstrate the work that we're doing over a sustained period of time.
CHAIR: I come back to an earlier question I raised, which is not just in the context of why it took a royal commission. I understand you've taken certain steps within the bank to make sure that circumstances that have existed in the past won't occur again. To what extent is there a clear pathway and an attitudinal shift in practice within the bank to make sure that, if future examples like this occur, we don't require a royal commission to make sure that there's proper measures in place to get the outcomes for customers that are required?
Mr Comyn : I can assure you there's complete commitment from the board, from myself and from my executive team. I think, for some of the instances, I'm happy to talk about the various elements of the royal commission or some of the factors that have gone into it, from my perspective.
We put out an ASX release earlier this week so that we could answer the committee's questions comprehensively as it relates to the changes that we're making. You may have noticed, at the bottom of that release, we've sent $850 million on a combination of customer remediation, administering that remediation and investing in our advice business. If I take a step back from that, I think that we should have implemented FOFA in full. I don't think we went far enough in terms of removing things like conflicted remuneration. When we consider how that occurred, I think at times we focused on things like adviser viability, because the structural reform of any business, including the financial advice industry, is a complex one. Whilst there were a number of changes that occurred, with the benefit of where we're sitting now, there are other things that we would have done differently as well.
The commissioner also quite rightly criticised us for failures of our systems and processes to ensure that we could demonstrate that every single one of our customers was only being charged for the services or products that they were being provided. Getting it right most of the time just simply isn't good enough.
CHAIR: Do you accept that you have traded on the trust of the Australian people that's led to this situation?
Mr Comyn : Trust is absolutely the cornerstone of any financial institution. It needs to be. Of course, we recognise that it's been damaged, and that's of enormous concern to us.
CHAIR: One of the critical issues that's been raised by the royal commission has been alignment of incentives and whether incentives have been focused within the bank in the best interests of bank customers, or whether it's been in the best interests of bonuses and, obviously, the profits of the CBA. Do you accept that there has been a misalignment of incentives within the bank? How would you explain the treatment of customers in that context?
Mr Comyn : I think certainly incentives have played a role in some of the issues that we're facing now. It's very hard to conclude otherwise. There is, of course, a complex interplay of factors which do not only include incentives but, since you've asked about incentives, maybe I should spend a little time walking through that.
Mr Comyn : I would say—and as I said in the opening statement—there may still be more work to do, but there has been substantial reform to the way all staff inside our bank are paid. Substantial changes were from 1 July, which was the full implementation of the Sedgwick reforms. That varies from tellers in our branches having no financial weighting or contribution to their overall remuneration and extends right through the organisation, including to my remuneration. The aggregate of measures that contribute to my overall remuneration have only a 30 per cent linking to financial outcomes. That's approximately half what it has been in prior years. That's certainly the lowest it's been for a chief executive of the Commonwealth Bank in decades. You might have noticed, as part of the annual report in the remuneration report section, we made it clear that there had been $100 million of consequences to executives through the failures of the organisation to ensure that there was the appropriate level of consequences for executives in the delivery or leading to the circumstances that we currently face.
CHAIR: And how do you explain that systems for the collection of revenue and fees have never seem to fail, yet systems for the provision of services to customers ultimately do?
Mr Comyn : I acknowledge that comment from the commissioner. There certainly are instances of system failure on both sides, unfortunately. Systems are a critical element of a banking system and, as I said earlier, we need to ensure that there is complete accuracy and controls in place to ensure that customers, particularly, are not being overcharged or charged for fees and services that they did not provide. There is no escaping that, in the context of things like fees for service in the advice business, there simply wasn't the requisite level of controls and systems and processes to ensure that we could demonstrate that customers were only charged for the services that they actually provided.
CHAIR: The CBA has obviously had a leadership change. Do you think this tone should be set from the top, or do you think it has been set from the top in the past?
Mr Comyn : Clearly the tone inside any organisation is set from the top. That's a really important contributor to the culture of an organisation. That's something that the chair and I have regularly discussed. There's a role, of course, for the board in setting that tone, for myself, personally, absolutely, and for my leadership team.
CHAIR: A critical follow-on from what's come out of the royal commission, I think, has been a very clear concern around accountability within banks and within the banking structures. What steps has the CBA taken around making sure there are clear lines of accountability? I acknowledge that you said in your opening address that there have been some. Could you outline those for us so that we can be reassured that there's an understanding of the importance of accountability and that people also be held to account for past conduct?
Mr Comyn : Yes, of course. Perhaps I will spend a little bit of time on accountability and then on consequences. In this context, I do think that the government's introduction of the Banking Executive Accountability Regime was a helpful element. Certainly in our experience, the implementation of that actually forced us to go through a very clear accountability mapping exercise which identified areas of ambiguity that had previously existed. That's one of the reasons, as I said in the introductory comments, that we decided to extend that to our 90 most senior executives—to make it clear for each of those 90 executives exactly what they are accountable for and also what steps are required for them to adequately discharge those accountabilities.
Separately, when it comes to consequences, there's $100 million of financial consequences for executives; an introduction of a very clear code of conduct; a set of values expectations; and, importantly, reminders and, where necessary, demonstration of where there has been misconduct or certainly conduct that does not meet community expectations. The consequences will be harsh. They need to be harsh, and they can include termination.
CHAIR: Does that include at all levels of the organisation? Local members of parliament here regularly get customers who come and talk to us, not just about the CBA but also other banks and the issues they experience all the way from what they see as attitudinal problems at the top of the organisation down to the branches. Is that going to flow through to all levels of the organisation?
Mr Comyn : Yes, it is. One of the criticisms in the APRA report was that those consequences were harsher the further you went down inside the organisation and the consequences simply weren't strong enough at the most senior levels of the organisation. That is one of the recommendations that both my leadership team and, of course, the board are ensuring that there is complete alignment, given the importance. The vast majority of these failures are failures that should be attributed to the most senior executives inside the organisation. The vast majority of our people who serve our customers in the Commonwealth Bank have had absolutely nothing to do with the failures here. And it does trouble me the level of abuse that many of our staff have received over the last 12 months, when that criticism and abuse should be directed at the most senior executives in the organisation, starting with me.
Mr Cohen : To support that consequence flow-through to senior executives in the organisation, we have introduced a much more thorough assessment of their behaviours in relation to risk management. As we have seen through the report from the prudential inquiry, there hasn't been enough focus on sound risk management through the organisation. So, in order to deal with that, we have introduced a very thorough assessment on a scorecard basis of the risk behaviours of senior executives, and that's extending through the organisation gradually and it will continue. That has led to a much sharper focus on behaviours and conduct that are not acceptable and that, in turn, has led to a much greater focus on consequences for those people.
CHAIR: I understand the point you're making around risk, but the issue is also one of accountability and the pathways for people to complain internally against problems that they see that may be being played out at the community level or on the ground, which might be connected to conduct at executive level or as a consequence of decision-making. What processes are in place to address that?
Mr Comyn : There are very thorough processes, including extending a regular update, on a monthly basis, to the board of any investigations that involve misconduct, particularly those that might involve more senior executives. Of course, at the heart of being able to foster the right culture inside an organisation is ensuring that people at all levels of the organisation feel empowered to challenge any decision that they don't think is in the interests of their customers or, specifically, to call out anything that they don't think aligns with the values and the clear expectations that we have set for ourselves. I think one of the markers of a very positive culture is people being able to do that, both directly to their line manager as well as to senior people inside the organisation, including myself. It's also incumbent on us to provide independent services where people, either as a whistleblower or separately, can go and raise their concerns on a completely anonymous and confidential basis and be assured that they will be thoroughly investigated and that the results of those investigations will be reviewed by independent parties.
CHAIR: I presume the CBA takes an attitude of 'no tolerance' to law breaking?
Mr Comyn : Yes.
CHAIR: The commissioner has been very critical of the challenge that CBA had in pulling data together regarding previous breaches of law, stating that the senior management and the board could not form 'a single coherent picture of the nature or extent of failures of compliance'. Do you agree with that assessment?
Mr Comyn : I think that criticism is fair. If I can give some context: over the course of the commission, we are certainly endeavouring to at all times engage constructively and transparently. We've reviewed more than 10 million documents inside the Commonwealth Bank, and we've provided more than 200,000 to the commission. We've put on 80 witness statements. We've had 15 executives appear during the process of the royal commission. Particularly early on, which is where that criticism was directed, we acknowledged we didn't get it right in terms of providing the right level of information to the commissioner in the time frame that the commission was seeking. At first we gave too little, and then we gave too much. So we've tried to get that right, and I feel like, as the process has gone on—not to excuse our failure initially—we've managed to continue to deliver information that the commission has found helpful. As a secondary point, I would also say that that is an area which came out of the prudential inquiry report, where we have invested in systems to ensure that we can pull together a very clear and aggregate level of misconduct to enable reporting and escalation through the organisation.
CHAIR: Commissioner Hayne also said:
First, changing culture in the Australian banks may not be easy and may take time. It cannot be assumed that entities will embrace change willingly or immediately. It cannot be assumed that entities will make desirable changes at all levels of the organisation.
You said, from what you've outlined today, that you think you have a concrete plan to do that. Do you agree with his observation or do you think it is going to require an ongoing commitment?
Mr Comyn : In our case, as I said, as it relates to the prudential inquiry, there is clearly some overlap between some of those recommendations. We've committed to having an independent expert review our progress on a quarterly basis. We report that progress to APRA. We've also made the first report public, and we intend to continue to make that public so that stakeholders, including the committee here, can review our progress and hold us to account. I do think, in the context of rebuilding confidence and trust in the financial services industry, that some degree of regular reporting and, of course, transparency—so that people can track the progress of major institutions such as ourselves—is an appropriate step.
CHAIR: To finish off, before my time ceases and I hand over to the deputy chair: when you say 'regular reporting', do you have a clear idea about how you plan to do that?
Mr Comyn : As I said, we reported our first report yesterday. We would intend to provide another one in the time of our half-year results, which is in the February time frame.
CHAIR: On an ongoing basis?
Mr Comyn : On an ongoing basis. We report to the market on our financial results twice per year, so we would anticipate reporting on that frequency.
CHAIR: Thank you very much. I will hand over to the deputy chair.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: Mr Comyn, what happened to the once mighty Commonwealth Bank? This is an organisation that working people had such trust and confidence in. What I don't understand is how an organisation with supposedly the best-trained, best-qualified and certainly some of the best-paid directors and senior managers could allow it to get to this situation, where the corporate image of this organisation has been so tarnished and damaged over the last decade. Why was it not that the case that the board acted sooner when red flags were there, going back 10 years, around wealth management scandals, CommInsure and other practices within the bank?
Mr Comyn : There are many examples of where we would like to have done things differently, of course. We recognise the criticism, as I said during my introductory comments. One of those pieces of work, which I think has now become a seminal piece of work for the industry, was the review by APRA. One of the conclusions that the independent panel true from that was success over that period of time had dulled our senses. I make these comments by way of explanation, not to provide an excuse. I think many elements in these failures are inexcusable. We did as an organisation become complacent. As I said, we made too many mistakes. We were too slow to acknowledge and, particularly, to get to the root cause of those mistakes. We should have taken more preventive action and we should have recognised, as you said, some of the red flags that were visible. Of course, we are wanting to ensure that we implement all the recommendations in front of us. We believe that makes us a much better institution. A big part of my focus, of course, is leading all of that change to make us a simpler and better bank for our customers.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: What I don't understand—and I think the Australian public are still asking questions about this—is how directors of this organisation who were so well paid and were getting big bonuses, if you go back five and six years ago, were alerted to some of these issues over eight or nine years ago but didn't act. You didn't act until the regulators got involved, until the media started highlighting these issues and the royal commission began delving into them. Why should we accept now that things have changed when you've had a decade to get these things right and you didn't get them right?
Mr Comyn : Two comments, if I may: one is a minor point of clarification. Directors are paid directors fees. They have no variable remuneration bonuses. Certainly, executives inside financial services institutions do earn variable remuneration and over that period of time certainly significant. To the heart of your question, as I said, I don't for a moment expect that the committee will hear the comments and the commitments that we make today and expect that that's enough. I certainly understand that scepticism, and I understand that I and the Commonwealth Bank will be judged on our actions, not by any words or promises that I provide today. I think your criticism in the context of the issues that have occurred and why did it take so long: there is no good explanation to provide. It simply took too long. There is no escaping that.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: Given the misconduct that's been uncovered in the royal commission, does the Commonwealth Bank now accept that you were wrong to oppose a royal commission?
Mr Comyn : Yes, we do.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: There has been over 9,000 submissions from bank victims to the royal commission. Some of those—a very, very small number—have had the chance to put their case orally, but overwhelmingly most people haven't had the opportunity to have their say. What do you say to those people? Do you think that they deserve to be heard through the royal commission process, as well?
Mr Comyn : Perhaps I'd provide a couple of comments. One, I would say that the royal commission process has of course been very thorough and robust, and I think the commissioner made it clear that he has reviewed all of the individual customer submissions. I'm not for a moment suggesting that that is enough in many people's eyes, particularly for customers who, understandably, would like the opportunity for their case and their individual set of circumstances to be heard, either in private or in public. That's something that, as I said, having written to the more than eight million customers inside the Commonwealth Bank and receiving more than 9000 responses, a number of those customer cases and longstanding cases I recognise the importance of our customers having the opportunity to meet with me or to have their grievance heard more broadly. After this committee hearing I'm meeting with a customer who's travelled from interstate to meet with me today. I'm not suggesting that I will be able to meet with every customer—certainly today—but I certainly recognise the need for customers to feel like they've had their case heard.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: Do you think that the royal commission should provide an opportunity for these people to have their case heard?
Mr Comyn : I think that's up to the commissioner to determine. Ultimately, the commissioner is, obviously, determining the process. I think it would be hard to conclude anything other than it's been a very robust and rigorous process. I certainly acknowledge that not everybody agrees with that, but, ultimately, the scope, the terms and the recommendations of the royal commission are a matter for the commissioner.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: Earlier you mentioned complacency and the APRA review of the Commonwealth Bank that's recently reported. It was reported today that APRA detailed 153 actionable items from that review that they wish the Commonwealth Bank to report back on by 31 August. According to the reports today, you've only reported back on one of those elements. Why is that?
Mr Comyn : I think that some of that reporting is slightly misleading in the context of the 35 recommendations underneath that. As you said, there are approximately 150 elements to that. We have commenced work on the vast, vast majority of those actions. We would also acknowledge there's a lot of work to do, and it's a multiyear program. For the areas that we've wanted to make progress in, we believe we have. And I think throughout the report it comments on there being substantial progress—acknowledging it's only been a few months and that this is a process that will be ongoing for some time. We certainly expect and believe we will make material progress this year. Of course, it's one thing to actually implement some of the recommendations. As you would appreciate, it takes a much longer period of time to then be able to demonstrate that those recommendations have been demonstrated over a sustained period of time.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: I want to move on to the issue of Youthsaver accounts.
Mr Comyn : Sure.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: It was reported on 18 May this year that there was widespread tampering by bank staff of accounts set up in children's names by their parents. Could you outline what this issue was about for the committee?
Mr Comyn : Yes. In late 2012 it was identified that a number of staff were depositing loose change that was left over in a branch at the end of the day into individual customer accounts—presumably, because there is then an ability to activate a customer's account when it has a small deposit in it. At that point in time, a note was sent out to all branch staff saying that that action was completely unacceptable, and the practice promptly ceased. I would say that, certainly by today's standards, that level of consequence is unacceptable and that even though there were clear actions taken at that point in time, they would be dealt with more harshly under today's standards.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: Why were those staff tampering with those accounts without the authority of the parents or the account holder?
Mr Comyn : I can only surmise that they were doing that because they thought they weren't causing any harm. Of course, meddling with anyone's account is completely unacceptable, but they were depositing mostly 5c and 10c into an individual customer's account. Secondly, there was some form of incentive—a very modest one, but that doesn't make it acceptable in the slightest—that they would have attracted by activating an account.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: So that incentive would be part of the One Team Referral process? Is it right that they are potentially eligible for a bonus in terms of a payment by that referral, and by that activation to that account, and by boosting those numbers?
Mr Comyn : Yes. Not specifically in the One Team Referral process. The remuneration and incentive design has changed substantially since that point in time. But, at that point of time, they would have been eligible—it was a very small amount contributed to their overall remuneration, which of course doesn't excuse that behaviour. There is simply no excuse for it.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: At the time when these issues occurred, I understand that you were the head of retail banking at CBA—is that correct?
Mr Comyn : That's correct.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: The leaked emails around this issue indicated at the time that, 'This issue is widespread.' Was that the case that this was happening everywhere?
Mr Comyn : No, but it's impossible to determine and I think that's a completely unsatisfactory answer in the context of that point in time. What should have been done was a much more robust and thorough investigation to identify the extent of the practice and ensure that any individuals that were involved in that received very clear consequences. What happened was: it was detected, there were some emails that you're referring to—I've seen those emails subsequently—and it was determined that they'd seen examples of it. And, as I said, an email went out to all staff making it very clear about a range of things, including any practice such as that, and that practice promptly ceased.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: When were you alerted to this, and how were you alerted?
Mr Comyn : Personally, I was alerted by an email that was forwarded to me, which was the email that went out to branch staff—it was an FYI email. I wasn't involved in any of the investigation and, certainly if I had my time again, I would have focused on that issue more at that particular time.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: When were you alerted to that email?
Mr Comyn : The email was sent to me—I think it was late 2012 or early 2013. But it was more recently drawn to my attention late last year.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: And what did you do after you received that email? What action did you take as the head of retail banking?
Mr Comyn : At that point in time, the email that was sent to me was a forwarded copy of an email saying that these practices should stop. I did nothing to go further into the subsequent investigation, and if I had my time again I would have.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: So, there was no investigation launched by the bank at the time about why this was occurring, how it was occurring, and how widespread the practice was?
Mr Comyn : No, there wasn't.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: Why? You've got people tampering with other people's accounts here. It's not on the same scale, but a similar issue occurred in the United States with Wells Fargo that sent shock waves through the whole industry. I think it goes back to that issue of complacency and the point that I was making earlier about senior management and the board being asleep at the wheel. Why wasn't this issue investigated when you had staff tampering with other people's accounts on a widespread basis without their authority?
Mr Comyn : Unfortunately, we don't know the extent of how often the practice occurred, and of course that's an unsatisfactory answer. There is a very big difference between the example that you referenced in the context of the United States where accounts were opened on an unauthorised basis and customers were charged for those accounts. Of course, any unauthorised activity, whether it's in the customer's favour or not, should be thoroughly investigated. And it wasn't at that point in time and it should have been.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: I understand that in March 2013 a whistleblower wrote to you asking why this wasn't being investigated. Do you recall that letter or email?
Mr Comyn : I've had several interactions with, I believe, the whistleblower you may be referring to, including an email.
CHAIR: There was an investigation that was later launched into the issue, wasn't there?
Mr Comyn : Yes, there was.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: And that was undertaken by MinterEllison?
Mr Comyn : Yes, that's right.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: And when did that investigation occur?
Mr Comyn : There were several investigations over multiple years not specific to this particular case, and I need to be careful: I'm not exactly sure how much of the details of that individual whistleblower's request I should go into. But in that particular case there were a number of different elements that the whistleblower raised. This was not one of the primary incidents that was raised and, over an extended period of time, a number of those issues were investigated. The MinterEllison report was prepared some years later.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: I understand that the MinterEllison report was prepared in 2016—would that be right?
Mr Comyn : That sounds about right.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: So, did MinterEllison produce a written report?
Mr Comyn : Yes, they did.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: Did you see that written report?
Mr Comyn : They produced multiple reports. I have seen reports from Minter Ellison, yes.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: Did Minter Ellison question you about your conduct regarding your handling of this issue when you were the head of retail banking?
Mr Comyn : Yes, they did.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: What were their findings in respect of your conduct?
Mr Comyn : I would have to refer you to the report. It basically says exactly what I said. The only involvement from my perspective was having an email—which is the same email that went out to all staff—that was forwarded to me.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: Did the Minter Ellison report go to the board of CBA?
Mr Comyn : Yes, it did.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: What actions did they take in the wake of receiving that report?
Mr Comyn : Well, particularly in that context during 2016-17, it was thoroughly investigated. This would be an example of where a whistleblower's request was given board visibility. I was not a participant when those conversations were had with the board, but they certainly had an oversight and overview of the thoroughness of those particular reports.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: Did anyone in senior management or the board take any action regarding this against anyone?
Mr Comyn : The problem with that particular instance is that, as I said, it referred back to conduct that had occurred approximately five years earlier, for which it is very difficult to go on and identify who had actually been involved, because, as I said, it was identified, it was reported within the branch management team, they sent out a notice at that time for any behaviour such as this to cease and it ceased. So it's actually very hard to recreate who may or may not have been involved.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: Was the Minter Ellison report provided to ASIC?
Mr Comyn : I believe it was, but I'd have to double-check.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: Okay. Was the Minter Ellison report provided to the royal commission?
Mr Comyn : Again, I would need to double-check. As I said, we've provided more than 200,000 documents.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: Okay. We've got a bit of time today, so I'd like you to get on the phone to someone and find out for us if that was provided to the royal commission.
Mr Comyn : Sure.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: When the royal commissioner wrote to the four banks in the lead-up to the royal commission, he asked for your organisation to provide a list of items of misconduct that the bank had been involved in since 1 January 2008 and where the bank had fallen short of community standards. Was this issue of the youth saver accounts provided in that list of items to the royal commission?
Mr Comyn : The initial submission—David, of course, feel free to supplement or correct me—was basically an outline of instances of misconduct. I think it certainly would have been referred to in broad terms, as you would appreciate. This is one of the issues we struggled with, I think, in our initial submission. The commissioner identified that he would have liked more detail; in our subsequent submission we provided too much detail. I'm certain that, in the context of too much detail, it was in there. I would need to check the specifics, but I'm sure it would have been certainly generally referred to, if not specifically.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: Okay. Again, could you check for us on that before we close today?
Mr Comyn : Sure.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: Was anyone dismissed by the bank in the wake of this issue regarding Youth saver accounts?
Mr Comyn : Specifically as it relates to that, I do not think so.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: I mentioned earlier the whistleblower who raised this issue. It is the case, isn't it—going back to this issue after complacency—that this Minter Ellison investigation occurred three to four years after the bank was first alerted to the issue? I'm instructed that the Minter Ellison investigation would not have occurred if the whistleblower hadn't really pushed this issue with you and senior bank executives some three years later. That's correct, isn't it?
Mr Comyn : The whistleblower, as I said, raised a number of issues—I think, from memory, more than a dozen. This was not one of the primary instances. There were several investigations into those issues over an extended period of time. Minter Ellison were brought in to provide another independent review of some of those matters, of which the one you are specifically referring to is a subset.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: And this whistleblower was made redundant by the Commonwealth Bank, wasn't he or she?
Mr Comyn : That's not correct. But, again, I'm not exactly sure how much of the detail—I'm happy to check during the break—I can go into. I'm very familiar with the circumstances of this particular individual and, provided I'm able to, I would be happy to answer your questions in full.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: If you could check that as well. I am instructed that this person was made redundant in a restructure in the wake of this.
Mr Comyn : I can assure you that the redundancy occurred a significant period of time before any allegations were raised.
Mr THISTLETHWAITE: Okay, thanks.
Mr EVANS: Thank you both for being here today. I have a long list of questions, including in relation to the government's Banking Executive Accountability Regime and small business lending practices, but I do just want to pick up on some of the questions and answers which I just heard. There are obviously a number of people out there—I think we are all very, very clear on this—including some people in this room, I'm sure, who just believe that they are not being heard. I want you to expand on this question: what exactly is the Commonwealth Bank doing to ensure that its customers who believe that they've been wronged by your bank are being considered properly and that people who have been wronged, under the law, are being properly and fairly remediated?
Mr Comyn : We have reviewed a number of individual cases, and David, of course, has been personally involved in several of those over the years. In some of those cases, they've been reviewed multiple times. They have gone to court. They have gone to the Financial Ombudsman Service. At other times, they've been through, as I said, a very thorough review externally and internally. Over the past several weeks in response to many customers, which I think you are referring to, who would have written to me directly, I have asked both my team internally and our customer advocate to review those cases. In some instances, there has been a real difference to the way that we have looked at those cases; in others, despite the circumstances being tragic, it's not obvious that the bank could have done something differently. That doesn't mean it's not important for those customer cases to be heard.
In the context of responding to more than 9,000 letters or emails from customers in the last several weeks, I and members of my senior leadership team and members from across the bank have been meeting with customers directly. It is really important to me that they feel their case is heard. I don't for one moment expect that we will necessarily be able to deliver exactly the outcomes that they might be looking for.
Mr EVANS: Are you committing to those customers that you are reviewing them and getting back to them?
Mr Comyn : Yes. Any of the customers that have written to me, we are definitely reviewing those cases. That does not necessarily mean we are changing decisions that we have made previously or processes that have been adjudicated in the court. But, of course, if there is any new evidence or if there is anything we have missed or if there is anything that a customer would like to contribute that we may not have considered then we are very happy to do that. As I said, I recently met with one of the customers who had appeared in the royal commission. I went through his file in detail to better understand the circumstances. Of course, it is an extremely difficult process and period for anyone when their business, unfortunately, fails, when there's any sort of financial loss, and the circumstances, unfortunately, can be tragic. Of course, it's really important that we assess what has happened in the conduct of what we should have done. If we find any instances where we failed or let down our customers then we will remediate them in full, but that is just not the case in all of the examples that I've seen.
Mr Cohen : Mr Evans, I think it is fair to say that, for individual customers dealing with a large bank like us when it comes to a complaint, in the past it has been difficult and it has been slow. I think the APRA report recognised that in a number of ways. It mentioned that we did not give sufficient visibility to customer complaints at senior levels of the organisation, and I think that's a fair comment by the panel. So, in response, we are on a number of fronts giving much greater visibility to customer complaints, not just individual complaints, which are important of themselves, but perhaps most importantly trends, because if we see patterns or trends that might indicate systemic issues, we need to get onto those much faster than we have in the past.
Secondly, we have established a customer advocate team. The purpose of this team, in part, is actually to give customers who are dissatisfied with our initial handling of a complaint another internal avenue. Of course, it's a customer's choice as to whether they take that internal avenue. It is a team that is separate from our customer-handling area. It is intended to be separate so that it can take an objective view of the circumstances. We've had around 14 per cent of matters that have been considered where the decision has been changed by the customer advocate. Whilst it's still early days, we do think that it's a process that is at least adding some robustness to the process.
Mr EVANS: Can I just ask on that: what's the capacity of that team? What does the time line look like?
Mr Cohen : First of all, in our first line of dealing with a complaint we try to turn around complaints within five days. Where that's not possible, we then let customers know how long it's going to take—
It is the case that more straightforward complaints, such as, for example, an incorrect charge that might have been applied, can be dealt with much more quickly. More complex matters, such as some of the ones that I've been involved with personally—say, small business issues—do take a lot longer, and we acknowledge that. We do need to get much quicker at that.
In terms of the resourcing: we are increasing resources significantly in the first line where we are handling customer complaints. The customer advocacy team that I mentioned to you—if you like, the area where appeals can be taken—has a resource level of around 45 people.
Mr EVANS: Okay. I'm conscious of time. I have a lot more questions and I might need to put some on notice at the end. In relation to accountability: initially the Commonwealth Bank, I think it's fair to say, pushed back a little against our government's Banking Executive Accountability Regime—although, to be fair, the last time you were here in the hearings, I think you said that you were supportive, at least in the context of the accountability aspect of it.
You said yourself, Mr Comyn, in your opening comments here today that the lines of accountability were not clear enough in your organisation in the past. Of course, that's exactly what the BEAR was intended to address. In fact I think it's fair to say that the last time we were here, one of the findings of this committee related to the fact that in each of the cases of misconduct that were raised in our hearings it seemed there were very, very few cases where senior executives had been terminated as a result. Most of the repercussions, where any existed, largely related merely to things like career progression. You said in your opening comments just before that the Banking Executive Accountability Regime is capturing 90 senior executives in the Commonwealth Bank. I just want to confirm that you're now crystal clear as to where the responsibility within the bank falls?
Mr Comyn : Yes.
Mr EVANS: Can I clarify this? When you said that it's being applied to 90 executives, were you implying in those comments that the Commonwealth Bank has gone beyond what it considers to be the requirements of the BEAR in having 90 people covered by it?
Mr Comyn : Yes, that's exactly right. We have found the exercise to be very useful and constructive. Therefore, we have gone further than what we think is required under the BEAR, to extend it across 90 executives to ensure that that level of clarity extends within the organisation.
Mr EVANS: In lay person's terms, what does it mean, day in, day out and week in, week out for the people covered by it? I'm sure that if I asked you the question, 'Are you very focused on it?' you'd say, 'Yes.' But I'm interested in specific examples. The chairman of APRA said that this isn't just about being in a compliance exercise; the whole point of this is to trigger a genuine improvement in the systems of governance, responsibility and accountability. So I want you to tell us: is this just being approached as a compliance exercise? Those 90 senior executives, day in, day out, week in, week out: what does it mean for them?
Mr Comyn : Sure. Perhaps I can give some examples—and, David, feel free to add some yourself.
From my perspective, of course, that clarity of accountability is really important. As the chief executive, ultimately, I'm accountable for everything that occurs inside the organisation. I have a couple of practical examples in the way I meet with my executives. One of the ways that I set out—in terms of the information that we will go through in each of those one-on-one meetings—is effectively to go through each of their areas of accountability. Specifically, BEAR requires that they're able to demonstrate, and that we're able to demonstrate—which I think is a very good practice beyond what's required in the law—that they're taking reasonable steps. In the practice of, let's say, the head of the retail bank, he has then translated a number of routines. We're talking about customer complaints. What he has done to ensure that he's discharging his obligations under his accountabilities to understand customer complaints is to ensure that each one of his direct reports is going through several hundred customer complaints personally per month and then reporting back on any of the issues that they're finding in those particular cases. So what it has done is provide absolute clarity and a lot of structure to ensure that those accountabilities are being discharged appropriately.
Mr Cohen : I'd add again, just as a practical matter, that similarly I have my accountability statement, so each accountable executive has a statement that sets out precisely what our accountabilities are. When I sit with each of my direct reports, we go through matters that go directly to those accountabilities so that I can be satisfied that my accountabilities are cascading down to them and that they in turn are carrying out actions that help meet those accountabilities. I think another benefit of the regime is that not only is it making accountabilities very clear but where there are areas of shared accountability—and they can exist—at least those are no longer just vaguely acknowledged but are very specifically identified. Lastly, another practical example is that I think we are recording a lot more around why decisions are made, the basis for the decisions and what issues we took into account when making that decision. So there actually is now a written record, which I think, going forward, will be very useful as matters come under consideration. It's been an exercise where we are growing into it, but so far it has been a very helpful one.
Mr EVANS: On that mention of shared responsibility or shared accountabilities, I was interested in one of your answers to the chair earlier where you said that your accountability mapping had identified gaps or ambiguity in your accountability structures. Would you care to name some of the major ones?
Mr Cohen : Yes. Financial crime would be one of those, as we have made clear before. I think exactly in the management of risk, with some of those key processes that span across the organisation, there needs to be clarity about who is accountable for what. Processes like payments extend across multiple divisions inside the organisation. It needs to be made very clear, particularly in the accountabilities for operational risk and compliance—which is, of course, a very important focus for us going forward—exactly who is doing what to ensure that we are adequately managing our non-financial risks.
Mr EVANS: Do you believe that, in any of the cases of misconduct relating to the Commonwealth Bank that we've discussed here in previous hearings or that have been raised in other forums, the relevant executives would have been terminated had the accountability regime existed back then?
Mr Cohen : I think it certainly would have made a much sharper discussion of the consequences, absolutely. It has led to termination this year, prior to the accountability regime coming in, but there is no doubt that it certainly provides a very clear road map to understand where the accountability sits and, of course, then what consequences flow from any inaction or misconduct.
Mr EVANS: I want to ask some quick questions as well in the area of small business lending practices. When we last met, and even before that, the Commonwealth Bank had made a series of significant commitments around changing its practices relating to small business customers and lending to them. That includes changes recommended by this committee, by the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman and by others. Those include—very importantly to my mind—the removal of unfair contract terms, the removal of your ability to foreclose on small businesses for breach of non-monetary covenants and so on. Have you met all of the commitments you've made in relation to changes to your small business lending practices?
Mr Cohen : Yes, we have. We supported the recommendations by Kate Carnell's inquiry, and we've implemented those. In some cases we have implemented them beyond the strict recommendations. As you mentioned, we have also made the changes required by the unfair contracts legislation. That is what we should do. I think our view is that, first of all, lending to small business is critical because small business in Australia is a major employer.
Mr EVANS: I am just conscious of time, so I will just ask a few extra quick questions. Are there any commitments still outstanding or where you're running late in terms of the implementation?
Mr Cohen : No. We have implemented the recommendations and the changes as planned.
Mr EVANS: There was some debate last time we met around the number of your customers in the business space that would be covered by, for instance, the removal of those non-monetary covenants. What was the landing?
Mr Cohen : The outcome—you may recall that the issue was: what would the dollar threshold around lending exposure be?
Mr EVANS: So you've settled on $3 million?
Mr Cohen : We settled on $3 million, together with the industry as a whole and with ASIC's concurrence. However, that said, we have agreed with ASIC that we will review that on a regular basis to see how it is working.
Mr EVANS: It seems I'm out of time. I've got some further questions, including in relation to some specific cases, but I'll submit those on notice.
Mr KEOGH: You referred to this earlier—in an interesting way, actually—but the interim report from the royal commission noted that they made their initial request for information to be provided by the bank in December 2017. Following this and another request in February 2018, the bank had not provided the royal commission with adequate responses. However, miraculously, within 10 days of this being noted at the opening of the hearings of the royal commission, the Commonwealth Bank managed to provide the royal commission with the tables answering the details of the queries that had originally been made back in December. What was your excuse for not providing that information in the first place?
Mr Comyn : As I said earlier, not an excuse; an explanation for what we were trying to do, which at all times was to provide the information at the right level. I think early on, as the commission provided that feedback that we hadn't, and then we—
Mr KEOGH: That's right. They provided that in February. You responded in, I think, late January to the December request.
Mr Comyn : That's right.
Mr KEOGH: They requested more information in February—
Mr Comyn : Yes.
Mr KEOGH: which still wasn't forthcoming. Other banks had provided that detail. And then miraculously it was able to be provided once the matter had been publicly aired. In the interim report itself, the royal commissioner makes the point that it wasn't understood why that information couldn't have been provided when it was initially requested. So I'm asking you now.
Mr Comyn : We were unable to provide the information in the time frame. Again, it hasn't been historically easy enough for us to be able to pull out that information. I can assure you that we have and have at all times had a very large team working on the royal commission, as you would expect—
Mr KEOGH: What distinguished your inability from other banks that were able to do it?
Mr Comyn : I couldn't speak for the other banks. I can only speak to the difficulty, which, again, I don't think is acceptable, but we did have difficulties early on in ensuring that we were providing all of the information. As I said, we continued to work on rectifying that and ensuring that we were delivering the information on a timely basis to whatever level of detail the commissio
The Attorney General and FBI will reportedly investigate claims Hillary Clinton engaged in so-called "pay-to-play" politics for donations.
Mrs Clinton's spokesman on Friday labelled the inquiry a "sham".
He said Attorney General Jeff Sessions was doing President Trump's bidding to distract from the Russia probe.
What will inquiry focus on?
The FBI has been quietly investigating the Clinton Foundation for months, according to people familiar with the inquiry, US media report.
The investigation is reportedly being led by FBI agents from Little Rock, Arkansas, where the foundation was founded.
They have interviewed at least one witness in the last month, reports the Hill, a Washington DC political news outlet.
Agents are said to be looking into whether policy favours were traded for unspecified donations to the foundation while Mrs Clinton was secretary of state.
But figures within the Justice Department and FBI doubt any charges will be brought, the Washington Post reports.
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Republicans have been urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a special counsel to look into the Clintons
The FBI began looking into the foundation in 2015, but the inquiry was put on hold amid election season a year later.
Image Copyright @realDonaldTrump @realDonaldTrump
Why is the foundation controversial?
US media outlets including the New York Times in recent years have scrutinised the Clinton Foundation.
Reports have explored possible links between contributions and speech fees received by the charity and decisions by Clinton's State Department that benefited donors.
Many of the allegations were detailed in conservative author Peter Schweizer's 2015 book Clinton Cash.
Founded in 1997 by former US President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Foundation has become a multi-billion dollar organisation.
It has projects around the world focusing on women's heath, climate change and economic development, according to its website.
Why is Clinton's foundation so controversial?
What happened with the Clintons in Haiti?
18 revelations from Wikileaks Clinton emails
Mr Clinton remains the foundation's president, and the couple's daughter, Chelsea, sits as vice-chair.
Mrs Clinton pledged to have no formal role in the charity while serving as secretary of state from 2009-13.
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The foundation has been involved with initiatives around the world since 2001
In November last year the US Justice Department asked prosecutors to look into the charitable foundation and a deal to sell a uranium company.
But Mr Sessions at the time told a Senate hearing there was no basis to appoint a special counsel to investigate the "Uranium One" sale.
What's the reaction?
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill railed against the new Justice Department inquiry.
"The goal is to distract from the indictments, guilty pleas, and accusations of treason from Trump's own people at the expense of our justice system's integrity," he said.
"It's disgraceful, and should be concerning to all Americans."
A spokesperson for the Clinton Foundation itself said the investigation would not distract its humanitarian work.
"Time after time, the Clinton Foundation has been subjected to politically motivated allegations, and time after time these allegations have been proven false," said spokesman Craig Minassian.
However, the inquiry will be welcomed by President Trump, who has frequently called for investigations against the former secretary of state, whom he calls "crooked Hillary".
What other Clinton-linked inquiries are afoot?
On Friday, two top Republicans referred the former British spy who wrote a dossier of allegations about Donald Trump for possible criminal charges.
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley and fellow panel member Senator Lindsey Graham suggested the Justice Department investigate whether Christopher Steele had lied to the FBI.
Mr Steele's political-opposition research report - reportedly bankrolled partly by the Clinton campaign - suggested the Trump campaign was complicit in Russian political meddling in the US.
Separately, there are reports that the Justice Department is looking back into Mrs Clinton's use of a private email server while she was America's top diplomat.
CBA 'abusing the law' fighting vulnerable customers: Labor
Labor MPs have chastised the Commonwealth Bank for its aggressive litigation tactics and lack of empathy for aggrieved customers as the bank pledged to do more to ensure deceased estates haven't been charged inappropriate fees following scandals revealed by the banking royal commission.
CBA chief executive Matt Comyn told a parliamentary committee 2500 of its bankers had failed risk management assessments during the latest performance reviews, while 41 employees had been sacked following cases exposed by the royal commission. Another nine had resigned while investigations against them were afoot.
But Labor committee member Clare O'Neil said this wasn't enough; her recent travels around the country with Labor leader Bill Shorten meeting victims of bank misconduct had revealed widespread grievances with CBA's approach to handling complaints, she said.
"I want you to understand that CBA is over-represented in these discussions," she told Mr Comyn, before calling out the bank's aggressive litigation tactics against vulnerable customers.
CBA in the dock
"One of the issues I am most worried about coming out of these discussions is the way I see the Commonwealth Bank abusing the law, the power you have in courts, the power you have to marshal major large law firms to take on people who are powerless and who are presenting themselves in the Supreme Courts around this country," she said. "And I think that is inappropriate."
Mr Comyn, who was heckled throughout the hearing by a group sitting in the public gallery, was forced to acknowledge "the hurt and the very, very difficult circumstances, that some of our customers have found themselves in, and some of that is as a result of our actions". The prudential inquiry into CBA earlier this year found it had taken an overly legalistic approach towards disputes.
The CBA boss was also put on the backfoot when asked how many "victims" he had met with face-to-face since becoming CEO. He said it was "less than 10". However, he added he'd been engaging with many others via phone calls or email.
Having originally planned on meeting one customer after the hearing who had flown in from Melbourne, Mr Comyn was approached by some members of the Bank Reform Now group during a short break in the hearing, and decided to spend the afternoon in Canberra meeting with half a dozen more customers.
After announcing it would rebate previously charged grandfathered commissions earlier this week, Mr Comyn flagged the potential for CBA to pay additional remediation costs. The bank is reviewing fees charged to deceased estates – conduct Mr Comyn described as "reprehensible" – going back seven years. The bank has already reviewed 140,000 filed but only over a three-month period.
CBA Big Fail
"There is no escaping that in fees-for-no-service in the advice business, there simply wasn't the requisite levels of controls and systems and processes to ensure that we could demonstrate customers were only charged for the services they were actually provided," Mr Comyn told the House of Representatives standing committee on economics, chaired by Liberal MP Tim Wilson.
CBA is working to create a new culture that empowered staff to challenge decisions that were not being made in the interest of customers or the bank's revised values, and to strengthen the ability to whistleblowers to make complaints. Mr Comyn said.
"Where there has been misconduct or conduct that does not meet community expectation the consequences will be harsh, they need to be harsh and that can include termination."
The CBA boss also expressed regret that staff had faced abuse and criticism from customers this year, and said it "should be directed to the most senior executives in the organisation, starting with me".
The interim report had shown CBA had been "too slow to get to root cause, we haven't fixed issues, and whilst we have invested in things like customer remediation, we simply haven't done enough to prevent instances re-occurring".
Did the legal services board defy complaints that asked it to stop trying to help crims find out what the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force was up to regarding rackets that smuggled Reserve Bank & Visa and Amex economic evidence to Keila Ravelo's criminal associates? Did it then panick and invent a story that they were investigating Mr Glenn Jones' claims that he said he was evicted? But landlords in Australia aren''t evicted, so who was Howard Bowles talking to really? Criminals? And did Shirley Joseph carry out the intention to violate the Economic Espionage Act? Looks extraditable from this: www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-...ok&utm_medium=social
The Act drawn up by people close to family of victims of Australia's CBA Bank and the Jordanou criminals wonder if the Patriots Act applies to Australian banks that harmed US pension funds and defense contractors like CSC, DXC Aerospace and Hewlett Packard. Unless landlords are evicted in Australia, people think the legal services board are foreign officials of a foreign government entity that 'protects' its bankers at the expense of Americans. Do you think Australian banks should be subject to the Patriots Act? www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/feder...nal%202017-24238.pdf
A joint submission to the Banking Royal Commission roundly condemns Australian banks’ lending practices for architect-designed homes, which caused loss of income for architects and severe adverse outcomes for consumers and builders.
The submission was made by the Australian Institute of Architects, Architeam and the Association of Consulting Architects and found the banks’ lending practices and policies “reveal a poor understanding of architect-administered contracts and systematic interference with an essential facet of the architecture profession’s service provision,” the submission states.
“Their policies discourage the professional engagement of architects and exclude them from engaging in a task for which they are specifically trained.”
The three peak bodies conducted a survey among its members and responses were received from 157 practices representing 175 projects, which collectively are worth approximately $152 million.
While the Banking Royal Commission has revealed several major banks have charged fees for no service, the joint submission has found the banks’ policies and behaviour have “prevent[ed] architects from receiving professional fees for a service for which they are qualified and trained, often as much as 30 percent of their overall project fees.”
The survey reveals the policies predominantly affects small practices and small residential projects which use the Australian Building Industry Contracts, which are jointly published by the Australian Institute of Architects and the Master Builders Association, and the single biggest issue was monthly progress payments, which are preferred by builders and clients.
“Specifically, banks are refusing to lend to consumers where: contracts specify an architect as the contract administrator; Contracts contain provisions for monthly progress payments; progress is assessed by the architect rather than a bank appointed quantity surveyor; contracts contain provisions for variations,” the submission states.
The survey found architects are spending on average 16 hours and as much as 40 hours negotiating with the banks on their clients’ behalf, 93 percent of which is not reimbursed. Of the survey respondents, 53 percent reported loss of income.
“In addition, projects are often substantially delayed by bank interference at project commencement,” the submission states, “The average delay is two months, and a small percentage of projects are delayed by a very large period, twelve months or more (two percent).
“In a small number of cases, projects are affected catastrophically. Nine percent of architects lose the project entirely, 11 percent of consumers lose the builder and 1 percent of builders go bankrupt.”
According to one testimonial, “the builder went into liquidation prior to completion with unpaid bills, forcing our client to pay approximately $200,000 over the original contract price.”
The findings also revealed the banks require an approved quantity surveyor to assess each progress payment “a condition that compromises the role of the architect and contravenes the conditions of the building contracts.”
A survey respondent reported this caused a total of $8,900 in addition costs to the client.
“The banks show a fundamental lack of understanding of how architecturally designed homes are procured. Unless these issues are resolved, the banks will make construction more expensive and riskier for clients, and fundamentally disrupt the business model for bespoke builders. Anything that dissuades clients from accessing design expertise during the construction phase also has a detrimental impact on the quality and value of the finished built product,” said one survey respondents.
Another said, “I am furious that a bank has so much influence as to almost stop a project coming to fruition because of the choice of contract. Especially when the original contact is legal, binding and correct for purpose – the renovation of a house.”
The submission concludes, “Banks are attempting to protect their own interests at the direct, avoidable and additional cost to the consumer.
“In our view the banks’ discriminatory behaviour towards architects and architect-administered contracts increase risk to architects, consumers, builders and the banks themselves.”
The former Reserve Bank board member Jillian Broadbent and AMP & Pricewaterhouse Coopers executives, on behalf of the highly esteemed Banking Oath, wrote to David Cohen of the Commonwealth Bank and Auckland Savings Bank:
CBA assisted Al Quada says the news' summation of Austrac's prosecutions. Would it be caught up in these American laws? The officials from APRA and KPMG on the Legal Services Board might know, its customers of Shirley Joseph include family of friends of GW Bush Jnr. www.c-span.org/video/?c4747307/sen-graha...s-military-tribunals
Attorney-General dismisses need for family law Royal Commission
Kay Dibben, The Courier-Mail
October 4, 2018 12:00am
ATTORNEY-GENERAL Christian Porter has ruled out holding a Royal Commission into the family law system, despite a Chief Justice calling for a public inquiry to be considered.
Mr Porter said yesterday there should be no need for a Royal Commission into the family law system, because the Government does not plan for its court reforms to fail.
He was responding to Chief Justice of the Family Court John Pascoe’s suggestion that a Royal Commission into Family Law might be necessary.
The Federal Government is merging the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court to have one court dealing with all family law cases, with appeals to be heard by the Federal Court.
The Chief Justice yesterday told a national family law conference in Brisbane he broadly supported the Australian Law Reform Commission proposed family law system reforms.
But he warned: “If legislation and the ALRC do not assuage public concern, it must be time to consider a Royal Commission into Family Law,’’ he said.
“This will allow public discourse by all stakeholders on all elements of the family law system and the protection of children.’’
Chief Justice of the Family Court John Pascoe at Parliament House in Canberra.
Commenting on the Chief Justice’s Royal Commission suggestion, Mr Porter said: “What he is saying is if we fail to fix the known problems, that might be an eventuality.
“I’m not planning to fail in the reform process.’’
Mr Porter said the Government only had one path forward — “to fix a broken courts system with two sets of rules and all the complications and chaos that caused’’.
“If the Chief Justice is saying we need to fix this and if we don’t, there are going to be consequences, then I think people should listen,’’ Mr Porter said.
He told the conference: “The structural reforms are about protecting the people that use the courts. They are not about protecting the status of anyone operating inside the court system.
“The reality is that the present system is creating confusion, delay and unnecessary costs for thousands of families inside the system.’’
Attorney-General Christian Porter denies there is a need for a Royal Commission into the family law system. Picture: Kym Smith
Commenting on reports that some judges were taking four years to deliver family judgments, Mr Porter told The Courier-Mail it was so far out of benchmarks, no one thought it acceptable.
“One way you can prevent those situations arising in the future is to have greater transparency into key performance indicators and court data for the public, so they can assess performance,’’ he said.
Wendy Kahler-Thompson of the Law Council of Australia, family law section, said in the Government’s “parallel universe’’, separated families were “outputs and statistics’’.
“The family law system is chronically underfunded and that will not be fixed by merging the courts and giving it a new name,’’ she said.
“Without new and substantial funding the unnecessary delays for Australian families will continue.’’