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Why we need a Royal Commission into Banks

Section 912A of the Corporations Act states that a financial services licensee, such as a bank, must “do all things necessary to ensure that the financial services covered by the licence are provided efficiently, honestly and fairly.”

Manipulating markets is very difficult to do alone. It requires more than one set of bankers or brokers to be successful. In the unlikely event that just one bank is involved, some other entity has to be turning a blind eye.

On Friday 4th of March 2016, ASIC (The Australian Securities and Investments Commission), commenced legal proceedings in the Federal Court in Melbourne against the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) for unconscionable conduct and market manipulation in relation to the ANZ’s involvement in setting the bank bill swap reference rate (BBSW) in the period March 2010 to May 2012.

In a civil case in the Federal Court of Australia in Victoria, ASIC claimed that

ANZ “abused its position in the Bank Bill Market to the disadvantage of other persons (including its customers) whose exposure in the BBSW (Bank Bill Swap Reference Rate), was in the opposite direction.”

The announcement sent a shudder through the banking and financial industry.

We notice that senior bank officers are always ready, though, to issue statements or comment on their fiduciary responsibilities. ANZ’s chief risk officer, Nigel Williams is on the record as saying, “We want to be known as a bank with a strong focus on culture, ethics and fairness.”

thESMH2P7FCBA Chairman David Turner said four months earlier when quizzed by a shareholder over its dealings subsequent to its acquisition of BankWest, “We think we will be the ethical bank, the bank others look up to for honesty, transparency, decency, good management, openness. That is exactly where we are trying to go.”

CBA Chief executive Ian Narev also said in November, 2015, “Trust is at the heart of banking. It’s not good enough if trust or good ethics exist in the vast majority of the organisation, you’ve got to do your best to get it right across the organisation.”

Then came the CommInsure scandal where its chief medical officer, Dr Koh “revealed doctors were pressured to change their opinions, outdated medical definitions were used to deny payouts, and medical files disappeared from the internal filing system.”

At a senate enquire in October 2015 former assessment manager for CBA’s financial planning division, Russell Phillips criticised the compensation scheme set up by the bank to review cases where CBA customers lost hundreds of millions of dollars after financial planners put their clients’ money into high-risk investments without their permission. When he made his feelings known, the bank subsequently sacked him.

Jeff Morris, the former CBA financial adviser who first exposed the financial scandal, said there should have been a royal commission into CBA’s failings. “Because CBA was let off that royal commission, they’ve gone back to their old tricks,” he told the inquiry.

These few examples are probably just the tip of the iceberg.

Every time the banks come under pressure for alleged improper practices, they roll out the same scripted response. They speak of ethics, fairness, efficiency and honesty. It’s not hard to see a pattern of, it’s not us, here. Which, of course gives us reason to think it just might be.

That is why we need a Royal Commission into the banking and financial services industry. It would not surprise me that the very fear of one has already precipitated the removal of damning evidence from within.

But it goes much deeper than that. It is our democratic freedom that is being abused here. The government says it’s unnecessary, even though a number of its own members are calling for one. A recent survey showed 65% of those polled want one. The Coalition, broadly speaking, see corporate capitalism and free trade as the pathway to prosperity for everyone.

It’s the pathway to prosperity alright. But for whom?

enhanced-12466-1444189471-4-e1457858962665-300x208The banks are warning that it could threaten their reputation abroad. They have, for so long now, been wagging the government’s tail across both sides of politics, they can sense that the party might be over.

Malcolm Turnbull regards the problem as being no more than, “a few troubling incidents.” This, from a former banker, one of many who now hold positions of power in governments around the world.

Yes, we need a Royal Commission. We need one like a Cardiomyopathy patient needs a heart transplant.



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  1. PC

    It’s pure and simple: The LNP are running a corruption-protection racket for at least some the corporate sector.

    If not, then why has the LNP ripped funds out of authorities like ASIC and the ATO, and why then is the LNP openly planning on doing nothing about corporate corruption?

    This is a very dangerous state of affairs.

  2. Kyran

    Whilst Comminsure is not, strictly speaking, a bank, it is most definitely a division of a bank.
    Remember TURC, designed to pillory Gillard and Shorten for associations (either with unions or boyfriends) from years long gone by?
    Having suffered through the collapse of HIH/CIC, talcum’s association, from years gone by, with banking and insurance has always annoyed me.
    He gave evidence at the HIH RC which was, at best, paltry.
    If you google ‘HIH royal commission’, it is bemusing for the likes of me. The last ‘settlement’ arrived about two years ago. Less than 30c in the dollar, more than a decade after the fact.
    If you google ‘class actions against australian banks’, or ‘accc actions against australian banks’ or ‘asic actions against banks’ or visit the website you get a clear message. We need a RC into finance, both banking and insurance. Corporation’s, whether they be bankers or insurers, rely on profits, and they don’t care how they get it.
    Can’t help but note two articles on talcum’s ascendancy;,d.dGY,d.dGY

    I highly recommend the second one. Thank you Mr Kelly. Take care

  3. james

    We also need a kangaroo commission court into the parliament and its war against the people of Australia in every detail of its structure.

  4. corvus boreus

    Beyond the ‘mere’ perfidy of banks, and on the subject of general corruption of power;

    There is a senate select committee that will be opening soon inquiring into the validity/functions/parameters of any possible ‘National Integrity Commission’ (aka ‘Federal ICAC’).
    By voted motion, this committee has 6 members; 1 PUP, 2 LABS, 2 LIBS and an INDI (no GRNS allowed).

    Submissions to this committee are only open until the day after tomorrow (20/4/2016).
    All who support/crave a federal ICAC have only 2 more days to contact the committee body to lodge their viewpoint, and I strongly urge anyone who craves action on political corruption to lucidly state their case for forming such a body.

    Committee Secretary
    Select Committee on the establishment of a National Integrity Commission
    PO Box 6100
    Parliament House
    Canberra ACT 2600

    Phone: +61 2 6277 3585
    Fax: +61 2 6277 5794

    Ps, Individual correspondence to the individual committee members is still an available option after the deadline for public submission closes, but these will not be part of any official procedural documentation.

  5. Douglas Evans

    This is not my field at all but I note that both Bernie Fraser (last week) and (this morning) an academic whose name I forget (but an expert in ASIC), have told Fran Kelly Breakfast show that while an inquiry with teeth is needed, a Royal Commission is not their preferred option. My vague memory is that Fraser argued for some sort of prime ministerial investigation with special bells and whistles and the academic felt that subject to particular conditions of resourcing and with the addition of extra powers ASIC might well be a suitable vehicle for such an inquiry. It could be that Labor has moved too quickly to seize the day and that it will come back to bite them on the bum. Presumably it will all depend on what if anything the Turnbull government announce in this space in the budget and on the hustings in the lead up to the election. Of course Turnbull will not wish to do more than the bare minimum to give the impression of action in this field but it could be that Bill Shorten should have drawn a couple of deep breaths before he rushed to the microphone. I believe that Fraser has both expertise and integrity and what he says in this space should be taken seriously.

    Corvus Boreus
    Given the background and legislative track record of Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson to name one it is ‘interesting’ that no Green was ‘allowed’ on this committee. What would be the thinking there and who selects ‘select’ committees?

  6. nurses1968

    From what I’ve read online and Rob Oakeshotts comments any rush for submissions to Select Committee on the establishment of a National Integrity Commission is a waste of time.

    Rob Oakeshott

    With election likely on Commissions+Tribunals,its noted National Integrity Commission Bill 2013 died today (closest thing to a Federal ICAC)
    76Ω ‏@S76Au 18h18 hours ago

    @RobOakeshott1 with a whimper, not a bang…

  7. Douglas Evans

    Although I’m not politically active any more and have let my party membership lapse I am a Green. As I said in my last comment this is not my field but Corvus Boreus’ comment got me curious and I looked around a bit. One thing that I found quite quickly is the Greens proposal in this space. The summary of this is as follows:

    “Measures to implement now
    1. Increased transparency and reporting of subsidiaries, strengthening the tax act on profit shifting
    • Mandatory public reporting of all subsidiaries
    • Public register of beneficial owners of companies
    • Name and shame the worst offenders of profit shifting
    • Passage of Corporations Amendment (Publish What You Pay) Bill 2014

    • Properly resourcing the Australian Tax Office
    • Reverse the 4700 job cuts
    • Resource a dedicated high-level team of forensic accountants and tax lawyers to tackle tax avoidance

    • Make public the ATO’s settlement register
    • Introduce legislation to immediately make public the ATO’s settlement register.

    • Legal protections for private sector whistle-blowers
    • Introduce corporate whistleblower protection laws
    • Create a US style false claims act, so that whistleblowers can get a cut of the collected revenue if the ATO succeeds in prosecutions of tax fraud on the basis of the disclosure.

    • Strengthening the role of ASIC
    • Increased disclosure of related party information in financial reports
    • Remove ‘grandfathered’ exemption provision for large proprietary companies
    • Proprietary companies to confirm to ASIC whether they remain a small company
    • Strengthen the information sharing between ASIC and the ATO
    • Immediately review the 1,134 exemptions granted to small proprietary companies controlled by a foreign company.”

    Anyone interested and especially perhaps anyone who wishes to make a submission to the Senate Select committee CB mentions could do worse than run their eye over the full proposal. It looks pretty good to me. It’s not that long and can be found here:

  8. Douglas Evans

    I note the comment from nurses 1968 but in any case the proposal from the Greens makes interesting reading and is perhaps a good measuring stick with which to assess the position of the various parties in the run up to the election.

  9. John Kelly

    A Royal Commission is what resonates in the public perception. For Shorten, it was the right call. The “experts” can say what they like. They are not up for reelection.

  10. Douglas Evans

    @John Kelly
    completely understand the comment and hope you are right.

  11. Peter F

    We are now seeing headlines which make claims along the lines of ‘Turnbull moves to outflank ALP on banks’. When will journalists be allowed to state the truth, along the lines of “Turnbull does a weak imitation of ALP policy on Banks’.

    One suggests a clever political move which will fool us all, the other is the truth.

    It must be frustrating for Turnbull to have to wait for Shorten to show him the way forward before he knows what to do.

  12. corvus boreus

    Nurses 1968,
    What context the Oakenfield tweet?
    National Integrity Commission Bill 2013 (GRNS) has been thrice filibustered off, and now if any such a body is formed it will likely be significantly altered by the end recommendation of the newly formed senate committee (no GRNS).
    Since the subject is under review, it will not be raised again a members motion until the committee has reached it’s conclusions.
    So yes, in a sense Mr Oakenfield is right, the 2013 bill is ‘dead’, but the idea of a federal ICAC is most definitely not.
    If you have any clear information on any further developments, please elucidate with details (would prefer non-twitter links)

    Yes, there is reason to be somewhat sceptical about the why (operational motives) behind the how and when of this committee’s formation, but such is the field of play for this round of the game.

    I feel that the case for such an anti-corruption body has strong evidential and ethical validity, and obvious majority public support, so I feel that it is worthwhile to bring reasoned public (electorate) pressure to bear on our elected members, demo to crats.

    If you deem us citizens having some official input into an investigatory committee on such an important subject a ‘waste of time’ (based upon a single tweet) then you are welcome to your non-contribution.
    When confronted by circumstances that warrant cynicism, resigned apathy is always an option, if not a particularly productive one.

  13. Douglas Evans

    @John Kelly
    Of course the LNPs gesture towards tighter controls of bank behavior will achieve nothing as pointed out by Paul BonGiorno on Fran Kelly’s Breakfast Show this morning and outlined in The Guardian here.
    However Morrison and Turnbull have probably done enough to quieten the fears of those who are toying with the idea of voting Coalition. The narrative of explaining why a Royal Commission is better has suddenly become too complicated to hold the attention of the average punter. Worse we have ten weeks to go until July 3. The details of this will be largely forgotten by then. My suspicion that Shorten went too quickly to the microphone on this is hardening.

  14. nurses1968

    corvus boreus
    Thhe tweet was from Rob Oakeshott the former Independent MP, not some “Oakenfield tweet?”
    As a former politician I feel he has a much more intimate knowledge of the goings on of Parliament than me.
    The follow up comments also by people who should know, Margo Kingston , Lenore Taylor and others seems to indicate their was something to the story, and it seems somehow it may have been bundled with the ABCC when put before the Senate .
    I am sure someone with the knowledge to seek out the Senate records would be able to find the issue to which they are reacting.
    I am not some political analyst, just a nurse, but have found the likes of Oakeshott, Kingston and others to be up to date on issues and usually pretty much right
    Though you may not like twitter or auspol this is,in part, the conversation

    Rob Oakeshott ‏@RobOakeshott1 Apr 18

    With election likely on Commissions+Tribunals,its noted National Integrity Commission Bill 2013 died today (closest thing to a Federal ICAC)
    39 retweets 18 likes

    Margo Kingston and 2 others follow
    Hoogs ‏@h00gs Mar 21

    Hoogs Retweeted Lenore Taylor

    Asshole, he’s also dynamiting a National Integrity commission bundled by crossbenchers into the ABCC bill. #auspol

  15. Pingback: Why we need a Royal Commission into Banks | THE VIEW FROM MY GARDEN

  16. Robi Stim

    Six 6 Courts in front of Nine 9 Judges concluded the BANKS are Criminals. The COMMONWEALTH HIGH COURT OF AUSTRALIA on 22nd June 2012, confirmed Deceptive, Misleading & “Unjust” Financial Mortgage Instruments manufactured by the Big 4 Privately owned Banks & other Lenders. The High Court confirmed the “Unjust” arose whereby the Bankers inflated the borrowers incomes without there knowledge and or consent. The High Court ordered the Banks and Lenders must fully Extiguished all “unjust” Financial Mortgage Instruments within 30 x days, return all interest repayments together with interest (%). It would appear Both the FEDERAL LIBERAL PARTY, also known as The Elite Bankers Party, the Banks & Lenders and the entire LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES the (“AFP”) are all in denial of The High Court, the Laws of The Land, and THE RULE OF LAW. No wonder all COMMONWEALTH AUSTRALIANS are totally feed up with our Governments in Bed with the Banks, the Judicial System, and our Law Enforcement Agencies……….. The Fraudulent “Unjust” perpetrated by all the Banks are apart of the current Global Financial Crisis the GFC has both directly and indirectly cause FINANCIAL TERORRISUM both here in Australia and Globally………….. The Commonwealth Criminal fraud caused by the Banks is (not) just a Political issue, butt rather a POLICE Matter, pursuant to THE RULE OF LAW………… The incriminating Prima Facie evidence placed before Six Courts in front of Nine Judges was the final nail in the Banks coffin. As our Law Enforcement Agencies either unable, and or unwilling to commence Commonwealth Criminal Proceedings against the Banks, confirms the level of BANK Power over our Judicial System is why so many Hundreds of Thousands of Commonwealth Australians have lost total respect for our Legal System. Notwithstanding this: This Propblem will never ever go away until The Rule of Law, is applied against these Privately owned Corporate Banks. All rights reserved MAY GOD HELP US ALL.

  17. Robi Stim

    THAT’S WHY WE NEED A ROYAL COMMISSION, because our Law Enforcement Agencies are unable & Unwilling to enforce THE RULE OF LAW. All rights reserved

  18. Robi Stim

    Both Malcolm Turnbull-shit & side kick, Scotty Morision have caused “intent” as they have both Stated………… The Banks are not Criminals, and should “not” be placed before the Courts, and questioned in the Dock……… Well in Law, these two charters have Caused Legal abuse, Contempt of the Courts, and Perverting the Course of Justice………. Pursuant to the Rule of Law…….. and as such should be both Charged with very, very Serious Commonwealth Criminal offences……… Notwithstanding this: MALCOLM TURNBULL-SHIT is an Ex-Banker……… Further questioning his Position as having a very Serious Conflicts of Interest……………. Why? are the AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE, refusing to charge both Malcom Turnbull & Scott Morision… Pursuant to The Laws of The Land. It would appear one Law for some & a very different Law for others…… Sorry MR FEDERAL POLICE OFFICER / PUBLIC SERVANT whom has Sworn his Oath of Office………… A CCRIME IS a Crime…….. The Law is the Law….. For all entities…. and no Persons or entities are above the LAW……. All rights teserved

  19. Johnny

    It is rather bemusing that a bank inflates a borrowers earnings to secure a mortgage, then the courts find that interest should be repaid to the borrower with interest.

    This is the biggest insult to any borrowing Australian and the courts know very well that an outcome like that is purely to protect the banks.

    If the courts cannot see that as a blatant fraud, maybe the fact that banks on-sell mortgages (securitisation) to investors, and that is not reflected on the title of the mortgage (as the investors become the mortgagees). The banks set up special vehicle trusts to keep them at arms length from having a vested interest in the corruption of on-selling mortgages, all without our knowledge and consent.

    One day people will awaken and when the masses in this country demand answers there will be no need for a Royal Commission. Politicians only have a say because we are not united enough as a nation, once the people unite, who ever is in charge will have no choice but to do the bidding of the people (we should be dictating what we expect from government, not the other way around) and only then may we see corrupt bankers jailed.

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