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NAB issues public apology after week of damning evidence at royal commission

A customer walks past National Australia Bank ATMs. The banks has apologised to customers after a gruelling week of evidence at the royal commission. Photograph: Paul Braven/EPA A customer walks past National Australia Bank ATMs. The banks has apologised to customers after a gruelling week of evidence at the royal commission. Photograph: Paul Braven/EPA

Bank tried to prevent publication of correspondence showing more than 100 potentially criminal licence breaches. National Australia Bank has issued a public apology after a horror week of evidence at the banking royal commission.

The NAB chief executive, Andrew Thorburn, posted a video apology on Twitter on Thursday afternoon saying he was committed to learning from the experience “so we can once again be a bank you respect and trust”.

It comes after four days of evidence during which NAB’s lawyers tried repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, to prevent explosive documents being disclosed to the public.

After that battle was lost, the public learned the corporate regulator had accused NAB last year, during private correspondence, of more than 100 potentially criminal counts of breaches of its licence in relation to charging fees to superannuation customers for services not provided.

The commission also heard advice fees had been deducted from super accounts belonging to customers who had died.

On Thursday morning, senior counsel assisting Michael Hodge told the commission how unhelpful NAB’s legal team had been in the lead-up to this round of hearings.

He said the commission had given lawyers for NAB and Nulis – a super trustee owned by NAB/MLC – a notice to produce documents before 4pm on 9 July, but said they provided the commission with 31 documents on 20 July, and then another 3,000 documents last week, before announcing on Friday that they would seek a non-publication order for some documents.

The commissioner, Kenneth Hayne, refused an attempt by NAB’s counsel, Neil Young QC, to keep some of the documents secret on Thursday.

NAB is paying more $100m in compensation to super customers who had been charged a plan service fee for general advice when they did not have an adviser linked to their super account.

On Thursday afternoon, the commission also heard from Ian Silk, the chief executive of Australian Super – the country’s biggest super fund.

Silk’s testimony was highly anticipated, because critics of Australian Super had been hoping the commission would scrutinise the fund’s decision to spend $2m of member fees to establish online publication the New Daily.

Silk said the money came from the $1.50 a week charged to customers. He felt it was worth it because New Daily would increase the fund’s engagement with its members, and boost financial literacy as 20% to 30% of its stories were dedicated to issues in the superannuation and financial industries.

“It was our best judgment that it was worth trying this, because heaven knows most techniques that we’ve used and the industry at large have used have not been successful, if you look at the level of disengagement,” Silk said.

Silk was also asked about a controversial television advertising campaign run by Industry Super Australia, called “Fox and Henhouse”.

The ad was released in March last year. It attacked Australia’s major banks, warning workers about the banks’ lobbying efforts in Canberra.

Silk said the ad campaign was primarily directed at Senate crossbenchers in federal parliament, warning them about the major banks’ attempts to overhaul the default super fund system to make it easier for retail super funds to get more members by default.

Silk said the ad was a public policy issue, and it served the interests of members.

This article was first published by
Author: Greg Jericho
Last modified onFriday, 10 August 2018 22:30

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