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The NAB, small business and the wilful ignorance of judges

The NAB, small business and the wilful ignorance of judges

Dr Evan Jones  16 June 2013
The National Australia Bank claim to be the bank of small business — but they are anything but, explains Australia’s leading exposer of bad banks, Associate Professor Evan Jones.

THE NATIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK is currently engaged in a blanket advertising campaign. Even for the NAB, at the front line of advertising/public relations expenditure, the current campaign is over the top.

Thus the Sydney Daily Telegraph, 2 April, front page:

‘Every morning millions of small business owners rise to face a new day. Some follow family footsteps, some follow their dreams, some don’t follow at all, they lead.’

And a full back page:

‘The reasons you started your own business are very personal. At NAB, we work with thousands of small businesses every day. So we learn from all kinds of businesses and we’d like to share that knowledge with you.’

The punchline:

    ‘Small business we see you’.

The NAB doesn’t learn from ‘all kinds of businesses’ — except to extend its reach of predation and to refine its techniques of default and foreclosure. In-house expertise? The NAB perennially forces customers to hire external ‘consultants’ – at customer expense – who will perennially add to the customer’s problems (at bank direction?) with the bank.

The Land, 4 April:

‘We see that agribusinesses need long-term support to take advantage of new opportunities and that’s why we continue to lend more to Australian agribusiness than any other bank. And we’re more than just bankers, we’re locals who are dedicated to supporting, understanding and growing your agribusiness here and overseas.’

The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 April, full page 7:

‘At NAB, we work closely with businesses to help them grow and bring their ideas to life. That’s why, over the last 3 years, we have consistently lent more to small businesses than any other bank.’

But any crude loan quantum does not represent the NAB’s contribution to the SME community. How much is predatory lending? How much of this quantum will be the subject of predatory defaults? No-one is counting.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 April, pages 1, 3 and 5. On page 5:

‘We see Australian business. You see commitment. Australian business needs long-term commitment to succeed. That’s why NAB supports our customers through the ups and the downs. And we prove it every day, by lending more to businesses than any other bank.’

 Australian business necessarily needs ‘long-term commitment to succeed’. But the claim that ‘NAB supports our customers through the ups and downs’ is flatly contradicted by the myriad stories related to me over the years (and to my collaborator, since the late 1980s) by small business and family farmer victims of the NAB. At least twenty-five years of bank thuggery from the NAB.

S30.1 of the 2004 Code of Banking Practice reads:

    ‘We will ensure that our advertising and promotional literature drawing attention to a banking service is not deceptive or misleading.’

Symptomatic of the bank’s attitude to the Code in general — laughable.

The public doesn’t know the extent of the NAB’s (or other banks’) nefarious activities because the print media is too busy raking in the revenue from bank advertising. The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) is too busy telling bank victim complainants to go away, so the media has an excuse for ignoring the issue.

Small business and farmer bank victims are forced into the courts, typically with minimal to zero resources. For a crude indication of the extent of bank litigation, go to the Australasian Legal Information Institute website, type ‘bank’ into the search box, and order the listings ‘By Date’. In some litigation the borrower will ultimately be at fault, but the bulk of bank litigation is a result of bank staff incompetence and/or corruption.

Let us reconsider the foreclosed farming siblings Chris and Claire Priestley. Their story is summarised in my January 2013 ‘Business as usual at the NAB and grab’.

There, I highlighted that the Priestleys had lost several applications to file an Amended Defence against foreclosure of their farm aggregation of 8,800 hectares — the early defences being nugatory thanks to a curiously unhelpful solicitor and the Priestleys damned thereafter. Garling J, in the NSW Supreme Court, decided for the NAB on 10 December 2012, following a 5 December hearing. The bank had been given possession in a previous judgement on 28 September and possession was set down for the next day — the 11th. Christmas intervened.

The Code of Banking Practice

In their court appearances, the Priestleys had increasingly highlighted the NAB’s failure to adhere to the banking sector’s Code of Banking Practice, whose commitments are encased in the bank’s contracts with the Priestleys (outlined in my first article).

The Priestleys had applied before Garling J to stay the impending eviction based on belatedly acquired information that the NAB and the other signatory banks had constructed a secret apparatus to hobble the workings of the Code of Banking Practice (of which more below). Their argument for a stay on the eviction and a new defence based on their allegations about the contracts entered into in October 2004, now seen as misleading and deceptive, was rejected.

Following the whitewash 1991 Martin Report into the banking sector, the Labor Government let the banks off the hook with the gift of self-regulation. Hence the Australian Banking Industry Ombudsman scheme (created in 1989, now the FOS), and the Code of Banking Practice.

The banks’ self-interest soon came to the fore. It was reflected in the Australian Bankers’ Association intention, under pressure from members, to hobble the Ombudsman scheme in its infancy. This was July 1992. The Ombudsman had shown independence in forcing compensation from NAB and ANZ over their involvement in a scam.

The then terms of reference for the Ombudsman were that judgement should be based on what is ‘fair in all the circumstances’. The hawks’ preference was for ‘general principles of good banking practice’. Ah yes, business as usual. A follow-up banking inquiry (the Elliott Committee) recommended that the upper monetary limit for the sums involved in complaints be raised from $100,000 to $200,000, and that small business be included in the scheme. The Labor Government rejected the recommendations.

It was noted by Tim Blue in the Sydney Morning Herald (19 September 1992):

    ‘Banks have been reluctant to agree to either move on the grounds bigger sums involve business capable of looking after themselves.‘

To allow small business into any scheme that involved fair play and potential compensation was anathema. Why kill the goose with the golden egg? And so it has remained in the latter day Financial Ombudsman Service — expanded in scale but still steadfast in the service of stonewalling accountability for the banks’ propensity for incompetence and predation.

Ditto the Code. In promoting the second Banking Report, the Committee Chairman Paul Elliott noted (5 November 1992):

    ‘An extension of the code to cover small business and rural customers also will be essential in rectifying damaged relationships in these areas.’

It didn’t happen. It was also intended that the Code would have an independent monitor. Ditto.

What did happen is that the Code, being developed by the federal Treasury and the Trade Practices Commission, was handed over to the banks themselves — in particular to the ‘hard-heads’, the NAB’s Don Argus and the CBA’s David Murray (Treasurer Keating’s choice to run the privatised CBA). The handover was courtesy of then Treasurer John Dawkins. In return for taking control of the Code, the banks ‘conceded’ to allow coverage of bank loan guarantors – in practice perennially the borrowers themselves – and the contractual enforceability of the Code. The takeover explains why a Code, now sanitised, did not see the light of day until 1996.

This early history of the Ombudsman scheme and the Code of Banking Practice exposes the major banks’ collective ethos. The Labor Government acquiesced to the banks’ formal commitments to meaningful self-regulation. The banks committed themselves immediately to ensuring that neither the Ombudsman scheme nor the Code would function effectively. In particular, a bank’s contractual obligation under the Code has never been enforced. The banking sector henceforth became essentially unregulated (save for the weak reed of ‘prudential’ regulation of banks’ capital adequacy), and so it remains to this day.

Coincidentally the small business lobby had a rare (if ultimately symbolic) success. With the Howard Government elected in 1996 with help from small business, the Government established a Parliamentary Inquiry into corporate predation against small business. The excellent 1997 report, Finding a Balance, assertively outlined corporate predation across a range of sectors including banking — i.e. nothing had changed since the 1991 Martin Report. The 1997 report led to the introduction of a historically significant ‘business against business’ unconscionable conduct section, s51AC, into the Trade Practices Act in 1998. The section was replicated as s12CC in the ASIC Act in 2001. Yet not a single case has ever been brought against a bank under these sections.

Thus comes time for the refashioning of the Code of Banking Practice in late 2003. Small business (presumably including the family farmer – a Code brochure cover has a farmer in a cowboy hat) is belatedly included in the Code’s coverage, and a Code Compliance Monitoring Committee to be established. Red alert for the banks, but no worries.

The banks first created the Code Compliance Monitoring Committee Association, for which a Constitution was written in February 2004. Then the CCMC was created, and the new Code promulgated in May 2004. The Constitution constrained both the CCMC and the operation of the Code. The CCMC’s capacity for compliance monitoring was inhibited in utero. CCMC members themselves expressed dissatisfaction to the 2008 McClelland Review of the structure, claiming lack of independence, constraints on their actions, and being kept in the dark by the FOS through which it operated. The integrity of the revised Code itself was inhibited in utero. All utterly predictable.

In the context of Garling J listening to the Priestleys’ complaints about the bank’s non-compliance with the Code, before ignoring the implications, Garling notes:

‘As well, the Priestleys argued that the terms of the Constitution by which the Code Compliance Monitoring Committee Association operated, meant that contrary to the Code, a copy of which the Priestleys were given by the NAB during 2010, the NAB did not have to investigate all complaints and hence had failed properly to investigate their complaints and submit their complaints to the monitoring regime of the Code Compliance Committee.’

What was supposed to be given to the Priestleys? The Code was readily available, the Priestleys had it, and the NAB would not be drawing attention to it at precisely the time when its non-compliance was in full bore. As for the Constitution, it is a secret document dictating the activities of a secret body, whose object was to scuttle the formal intent of the Code. The Priestleys obtained a copy that had fallen off the back of a truck.

The judiciary in general will not touch the elephant in the room which is the monumental duplicity that is the Code of Banking Practice. The legal profession and the judiciary prefer to have no idea of the Code, its significance or its politics, save for Mallesons (NAB’s premier law firm) which wrote the CCMCA’s Constitution in order to emasculate its impact.

It was Garling J’s task to tick the boxes on the Priestley possession and get the hell out of there asap. Thus:

    [The Priestleys] did not make it apparent how a failure of the NAB, assuming one was established, to comply with these contractual provisions, could amount to a defence of the NAB’s claim for possession of the land.

    … the matters which the Priestleys now seek to raise do not, in the form in which they are advanced, constitute an arguable defence against the NAB’s legal claim for, and its entitlement to, orders for possession of the farming properties. At their highest, it is possible that they may a basis for a claim for damages, although the evidence presently before the Court does not suggest that any such claim is likely to be successful. …

    It follows that I am not persuaded that the Priestleys have an arguable defence to the NAB’s claim. In light of the fact that this is their seventh attempt to formulate a defence, even making all proper allowance for the fact that they are not legally represented, I am not satisfied that it is in the interests of justice to make the orders sought by them.

The brief exchange in the 5 December hearing goes to the heart of the matter:

    His Honour [Garling J]: … There seems to be little doubt that you and Mr Priestley borrowed some money from the bank. Claire Priestley: Yes, we did.

    His Honour: There seems to be little doubt that the payments are not up‑to‑date. CP: Yes.

    His Honour: Ordinarily that would mean that the bank could take their security. CP: Yes.

    His Honour: And that is the order they have got. CP: Yes, I appreciate that.

    His Honour: So why is it that you say in this case the bank should be stopped from getting the benefit of their security?

That exchange captures the essence of bank litigation and the rest is white noise. Such is the beauty and simplicity of the Common Law. A contract is a contract is a contract.

The Priestleys did attempt a ‘yes, but’. The Priestleys had contracted the initial loan with NAB in late 2004, with the (written) promise of long-term support. The Code of Banking Practice was part of the contract. The mortgaged properties were in drought and remained so (as elsewhere) for the next five years.

When the rains came after Christmas 2009, the bank almost immediately offered non-cooperation. Efforts by the Priestleys to arrange crops (and ultimately reduce the debt), given the bumper conditions, were parried by dissembling and dishonesty. Bank pressure to sell immediately ignored the impossibility of sale given the then market. The Branch Manager and Regional Manager were either incompetent and ignorant, knowing nothing of commodity conditions and possibilities, or they were doing a job for upstairs. Neither option reflects well on the managers’ integrity.

Finally, when the managers continued to stuff them around with respect to a cotton plan and budget, the Priestleys went to the NAB Narrabri branch on 16 April 2010 to complain of their treatment. The desk said that relevant personnel were first out to lunch and (after lunch) then not there (the Priestleys suspected otherwise), so the Priestleys relayed their complaints informally to an agribusiness staffer. She promised the Priestleys a copy of her notes, but failed to comply. The Branch remained silent.

Here is s35.7 of the 2004 Code of Banking Practice:

35.7 Our dispute resolution process is available for all complaints other than those that are resolved to your satisfaction at the time they are drawn to our attention.

Instead of processing the complaints, the Branch manager emailed the Priestleys to say that a meeting under the Farm Debt Mediation Act would deal with their ‘concerns’ (not complaints). The Code is breached. Immediately, the Priestleys are served with Farm Debt Mediation; at the same time they are requested to forward their ‘concerns’. The Priestleys then wrote a letter (23pp plus 120pp of attachments) to CEO Cameron Clyne outlining their complaints and highlighting that their complaints to date had been ignored.

It is clear that the Priestleys couldn’t comprehend the black-hearted nature of their treatment, given one’s expectations of professionalism from a major bank and particularly given the character of NAB’s contemporary advertising. Flunkey James Stafford replied on Clyne’s behalf claiming that Farm Debt Mediation is the proper forum. The Code is breached. The Priestleys then met with NAB Agribusiness Manager Khan Horne and were told that Farm Debt Mediation was the appropriate place. The Code is breached.

 The label ‘forum’ does not appear in the Code. It does appear in the CCMCA’s Constitution. Its definition is all-inclusive (including courts, tribunals and mediators!) and it is part of a significant, lengthy and convoluted section (s8.1) delimiting ‘consideration of complaints about Code breaches’. The Constitution is not consistent with the Code, and it appears that the Constitution tacitly trumps the Code (at least with respect to NAB’s dealings with the Priestleys). So why was the Constitution not a public document?

Here is s36 of the 2004 Code:

36 External dispute resolution

We will have available for you an external impartial process for resolving disputes. This process will be: (a) free of charge; …

At the 5 December hearing, Garling J. wonders what the Priestleys are complaining about:

His Honour:

What the banking code gave you … It says: “We will have available for you an external impartial process for resolving disputes”, et cetera. Well, wouldn’t the farm mediation process be an external dispute resolution process? … I’m reading clause 36 of the code. It says: “We will have available for you an external impartial process”. It does not say what it is. Why doesn’t the farm debt mediation comply with that? … I don’t see that [dispute resolution and Farm Debt Mediation] are inconsistent. Why isn’t the farm debt mediation consistent with 36?

Because it isn’t. The external dispute resolution process in s36 refers to potential involvement of ASIC and the FOS. External assistance will be ‘free of charge’; farm debt mediation involves a cost (some mediators charge like a wounded bull). Mediation abides in a separate world. Compulsory mediation is a NSW phenomenon (with later shadow developments in Queensland and Victoria), enacted in 1994 before the Code was established. The Code is flawed in that statutory mediation is not accounted for in its text, but formally the Mediation rules cannot negate a bank’s obligations under the Code.

Farm Debt Mediation

The Farm Debt Mediation Act was legislated in New South Wales by well-intentioned people seeking to offset the tyrannous hold of bank lenders over family farmers. Several reviews and marginal tinkering down the track, the system has become bureaucratised and sclerotic, with the substantive issues pushed into oblivion. The coverage of the scheme in the Rural Adjustment Authority’s Annual Report is risible. Under Farm Debt Mediation rules, a bank is forced to seek mediation prior to foreclosure, but the oppressive and asymmetric character of the rules means that the bank can readily use mediation to entrench and legitimise foreclosure.

The local bank managers’ obfuscation having reached a critical point with the Priestleys demanding answers for their treatment led to the bank serving ‘Intention to take Enforcement Action’ on the Priestleys in April 2010. The farmer is given 21 days to sign a section 9 Form implying that they have requested (sic) a mediation concerning farm debt; failing agreement the bank proceeds with enforcement action for foreclosure. After signing the section 9 Form the farmer receives (belatedly) a mediation kit. Bizarrely, the kit includes a page labelled ‘Good Faith’, citing an obiter dicta on the meaning of good faith from a 1999 judgement. The necessity for a bank to act in good faith was removed from the Act in 2004.

Farmers are advised in the material that

‘Even though you have returned a notice indicating that you wish to enter into mediation, you can still attempt to reach an agreement with the creditor/bank outside of mediation.’

The Priestleys repeatedly pursued this avenue: they wrote to CEO Clyne and his staff, their solicitor wrote to NAB legal counsel, and they wrote to and met with Agribusiness Manager Horne, highlighting their unfair treatment and pressing the necessity to keep the farms functioning and producing. Every attempt they made to be heard was ignored.

The bank was advised by the Priestleys that they could not afford the costs of mediation. The Code of Banking Practice incorporates a cost-free complaints mechanism, formally claiming to keep customers out of costly litigation. Having been served with mediation, the Priestleys had no choice other than to comply and to incur costs.

As I noted in my previous article:

The bank substituted a vehicle for reinforcing the default process (with the customer forced to share the costs) for a complaints mechanism and cost-free dispute resolution service mandated under the Code. The blatant hypocrisy and sham of the substitution is further exemplified by the fact that the Branch and Regional managers who were central to the Priestleys’ complaints were present at the Mediation meeting. A bank Legal Counsel was also present, whose office is alternately described as ‘Dispute Resolution’ (transparently inactive) and ‘Recoveries’.

During the ‘mediation’, the Priestleys’ complaints don’t get a hearing. On the Priestleys’ account, the bank’s staffer in charge misrepresented the Priestley’s position, reputedly bullied them and dictated the terms of the mediation ‘Agreement’. The Agreement set impossible terms, entrenching the penalty interest rates and with an unrealistic properties sale deadline. Having been in mediation also prevented the Priestleys from gaining sympathy from other potential finance providers.

The bank having supported the Priestleys through 5 years of drought (and receiving $470,000 in drought relief payments via the RAA), the drought ends. Subsequently bank staff talk rubbish, deny assistance of any kind, consistently breach the Code of Banking Practice and debauch the Mediation process. The Priestley’s six page letter of 29 September 2010 to the FDM’s Manager outlining the divergence between formal mediation principles and reality in their experience evidently elicited no concern from RAA administration regarding the dysfunctional dimensions of the scheme.

The derelict Farm Debt Mediation process is primed for abuse. There is a mediation ‘industry’ not inclined to rock the boat – those generating income as mediators, and buoyed by do-gooders (centred around the Australian Dispute Resolution Journal), who think that good intentions will substitute for bank bastardry built on a profound structural imbalance between bank lender and rural borrower.

This is not a Royal Commission into the banking industry

The Garling 5 December hearing and 10 December oral judgement came late in the proceedings of NAB vs Priestley, the convention of the indubitable right of the mortgagee to the mortgaged property of the defaulted mortgagor already having been cemented. NAB solicitors Dibbs Barker performed the public legwork for the execution; the bank staff who oversaw this customer’s trajectory from valued to dispensable customer are, as per custom, nameless and invisible.

Garling J is no doubt a straight-up-and-down bloke. He earned kudos in previous incarnations. His humanity is displayed in his empathy with the Priestley’s plight:

The rural properties upon which the Priestleys, who are partners in the River Staation Partnership, conducted their agricultural activities have been owned by the Priestley family for five generations. Unsurprisingly, the present predicament in which the Priestleys find themselves is the source of great sadness and upset for them. … I recognise and appreciate the depth of their distress and their emotion.

Let the Priestleys eat cake. Garling J did note, in concluding the written judgement:

What [the Priestleys] have put before the Court on this application is certainly deserving of close attention by the senior management of the NAB, because if the Priestleys are correct, and their complaints have not been listened to and dealt with appropriately, then the NAB may well be exposed to both, damage to its reputation and as well, suggestions that its publicity campaign which describes itself as “the leading Agri-Business bank” may not have any substance.

What the Priestleys have put before the Court is certainly deserving of close attention indeed. But who will initiate such close attention? Good luck and good night.

The Priestleys appeared in Court again on 7 May, applying for leave to appeal the 10 December Garling judgment. Basten and Macfarlan JJ summarily dismissed the application, with costs. The judges had before them a blank sheet, claiming ignorance of the case before them and of the massive documentation submitted to Garling. So much for court procedure for the unwashed.

From the court transcript, Basten J refers repeatedly to the fact that the Priestleys had always been familiar with the Code, so how could they be making a defence only belatedly that the bank had broken the Code? (!).

With regard to the secret and Code-delimiting Constitution, Basten J claims (!):

“But what right did you have to have a copy of the Constitution?”

Basten J also declaimed (!):

“This is not a Royal Commission into the banking industry.”

The bank’s non-compliance with the Code to which it was contractually bound – and the banks’ collective emasculation of the Code – was not on the judges’ radar and the NAB’s legal team is allowed to play dumb on the issue.

Finally, the judges took counsel from bank counsel – precedent being supplied – that possession had already occurred which made the application ‘frivolous’. Frankly, I can’t see the relevance of the ‘precedent’ cited (Caldar v Public Trustee of NSW, 2005) but only the legal mind can discern the indiscernible. The judges copy and paste bank counsel’s opinion into the judgement. The end.

Possession and thereafter

The Priestleys were duly deprived of their farming aggregation on the 31st of January, the final date set for 22 January but delayed again due to rain making the roads impassable for the feared entourage of Sheriff, bodyguards and locksmiths. The bank gave the role of receiver to Peter Mair, of Mortgagee Services. The keys, inexplicably, are apparently in the hands of the Landmark branch at Walgett. The sale of the properties has been handed to Davidson Cameron of Narrabri.

There will be no crops in the ground or preparation for such, important to achieve the best price at sale. A solicitor assisting the Priestleys called the Davidson Cameron principal, Michael Guest, on 4 April. Guest reputedly opined that it is too late to prepare for and sow a wheat crop. Not true – neighbours to the Priestleys were preparing their land for sowing nearly six weeks after Guest said that it was too late. By contrast with elsewhere, the properties have received good rainfall. When asked whether they would be filling the reservoirs (for a potential cotton crop), the agent is reputed to have claimed that one couldn’t get to the pumps because of the floods. Incorrect. The agent is also reputed to have said that the Priestleys have Macquarie River licenses, and thus they can’t pump the bountiful Barwon River water then flowing into the Macquarie. Again incorrect and absurd. To identify the water source in the Macquarie River at this location during high rainfall or flooding from as far away as Queensland is impossible, due to the complex web of surrounding rivers and creeks. The value of the Priestley’s water licenses is precisely because the licenses give them access to water converging from the Barwon and Castlereagh Rivers and Marthaguy Creek. On what criteria did the NAB hand the sale to Davidson Cameron?

Guest is currently on the State Executive of the Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association, whose website notes:

‘When primary producers use the services of an Association member, they can be assured that: 1. the agent accepts an ethical commitment to offer a high standard of professional service; … 3. the agent will provide accurate market advice on livestock and property…’

Water channels should preferably be repaired (albeit not essential), but the bank claims that ‘there would be significant cost (likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars) …’ in making the repairs, etc. The Priestleys claim that estimated costs are rather in the vicinity of $20,000 and $6,000 for fuel. To fill the reservoir under conditions of overflow of water to the reservoir pumps (as occurred during the receivership) would cost approximately $30,000; to pump directly from the Macquarie River (double pump) would cost about $60,000.00. These sums are minor when one faces a reduction in sale value of over $1million (estimated by another estate agent) by both not filling the reservoir and limiting the number of prospective purchasers.

Priestley aggregation reservoir, February 2012; since January 2010 a not-infrequent inundation.

Davidson Cameron’s advertisement for the aggregation went into The Land on 16 May. It is desultory, especially in terms of pictorial representation of water infrastructure and of the current good feed for livestock. More, the advertisement unusually plays down the property with the disclaimer

‘Interested parties please note that the irrigation infrastructure and development may require maintenance.’

(The advertisement is now accessible on the web.)

Sale of the property is by tender (i.e. secretive) and tenders close 14 June, a ridiculously short period for potential purchasers to obtain contracts, formalise funding and make submissions.

The dimensions of the process of sale of the Priestley properties point naturally to the prospect that the aggregation will be sold under value, to a friendly party, and that this outcome is the NAB’s clear intention. The properties are sandwiched between two agglomerations owned by the same family. This family has also recently made a successful offer for the property of the only mutual neighbours. The Priestley alluvial flood plain properties receive inundation from four water sources – the Macquarie and Barwon Rivers and the Marthaguy Creek and Castlereagh Rivers. Their water flow is not dissimilar to that of the famed Cubbie Station itself. The properties are thus a highly attractive asset to the neighbours, and a purchase under value would be manna from the god in heaven that is the National Australia Bank.

The NAB has been pulling this ‘sale under value’ stunt for so long that proceeding in this manner has become second nature. It’s a racket – the practice is embedded in the corporate culture of the bank – and it is institutionalised theft against the borrower,

The resources devoted to this kind of customer takedown are significant. Ultimately, it may have been more profitable for the bank to treat such customers professionally for mutually beneficial outcomes. It appears that the entrenched deficiency in sectoral competence, administrative incompetence, sadism and corruption must be nurtured — regardless of the resulting effect on the bank’s efficiency, balance sheet and reputation. Confront the irony when one next reads an advertisement from the National Australia Bank extolling its own virtues on small business / family farmer lending.

The revised 2013 Code of Banking Practice is 72 pages long. It is bureaucratic mumbo jumbo and it is meaningless. The operative Code of Banking Malpractice is zero pages, undocumented, and all those who matter (including the legal profession and the judiciary) subscribe to it. The Priestleys were valued customers under the former, lambs to the slaughter under the latter.

Last modified onSaturday, 31 August 2013 08:07

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