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Royal commission protects NAB whistleblowers ahead of home loan probe

Problems with National Australia Bank's "introducer" scheme will be one of the areas probed by the royal commission. Problems with National Australia Bank's "introducer" scheme will be one of the areas probed by the royal commission.

The royal commission into financial misconduct has decided to protect the identity of one or more National Australia Bank whistleblowers ahead of its first round of public hearings into home loans.

The first topic listed for Tuesday's hearing is NAB's problems with fraudulent home loan applications submitted via its "introducer" scheme - where people outside the bank collected a commission for referring a customer.

NAB last year revealed 20 bankers had been sacked or had left over the issue, and another 32 were disciplined for failing to follow its rules when writing home loans. It is expected that more details about the misconduct, and how the bank responded, will be revealed next week.

On Friday, a ruling by commissioner Kenneth Hayne added a snippet of new information, referring to "one or more whistleblowers" who were included in documents handed over by the bank.

Commissioner Hayne agreed to the bank's request to conceal the identities of whistleblowers in the documents. However, he said there was no case to keep secret "the summary of the allegations made by a whistleblower and, in some respects, the outcome of NAB’s investigation of those allegations".

Commissioner Hayne said the material was "relevant" to the inquiry, adding: "That material ought not to be redacted and no non-publication direction should be made in that respect."

"However, information that might identify a whistleblower should not be published."

The bank offers a confidential whistleblower service to its staff, as do other lenders.

The full details of the case are not yet public, but it is understood whistleblowers from within NAB were one way in which senior management became aware of the problems with its introducer scheme.

NAB group executive Andrew Hagger last year said some of the loans might have been submitted without accurate information about the customers, which could include incorrect documents such as pay slips.

The Finance Sector Union this week said NAB was still conducting a "disciplinary investigation" into the issue, which had looked into about a dozen staff.

Other issues to be looked at in the opening round of hearings include banks' problems with mortgage brokers, car loans, credit cards, and add-on insurance sold to consumers.

It was also revealed on Friday that banks' wealth management arms would be the next part of the financial sector to be put under Commissioner Hayne's microscope, after a string of scandals in recent years.

Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ Bank, National Australia Bank and AMP have in recent weeks received information requests from the royal commission to provide further information about their wealth activities, including further details of well-known scandals.

The notices sent by the commission are varied, and could be a request for specific documents such as policies, emails, or codes of conduct, or for further details

In his opening statement, Commissioner Kenneth Hayne criticises the banks for failing to meet a deadline of reporting a list of their misconduct.

It is understood that one notice from the commission can require banks to hand in up to 5000 documents, which is a sign of  the enormous workload facing lenders and the Melbourne-based commission.

Wealth management has been a major source of headaches for banks over the past few years, with scandals erupting in financial advice, life insurance and superannuation.

The financial returns from wealth management have also been disappointing in many cases, which has contributed to ANZ Bank, NAB and CBA selling off large parts of their wealth arms.

This article was first published by:
Author: Clancy Yeates
Last modified onSaturday, 10 March 2018 21:53

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