Things are getting ugly at Commonwealth Bank after devastating admissions at the Banking Royal Commission.
Things are getting ugly at Commonwealth Bank after devastating admissions at the Banking Royal Commission.

Banking for Aussies just got worse

THE reputations of Australia's big banks has taken a big hit this week - and it seems even in death you can't escape their fees.

The banking royal commission has heard Commonwealth Bank advisers charged dead clients for financial advice, in one case for a decade.

A 2015 document for CBA's Count Financial business shows examples of advisers charging ongoing service fees after clients had died, AAP reports.

One adviser knew a client had died in 2004, but the adviser service fees were still being charged a decade later, the document shows.

"When asked, he said he didn't know what to do and he had tried to contact the public trustee and had not heard back," the document noted.

Another customer of a different adviser died in 2007 and contact was made with the client's wife in 2013 but no action was taken, the royal commission heard on Thursday.

These are just some of the stories coming out of the royal commission this week.

The news has been so bad that Treasurer Scott Morrison to warn law-breakers that their "disturbing" behaviour could enforce jail time.

"That's how serious these things are," he said yesterday.

Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce - who opposed the royal commission - has apologised for arguing against it in the past.

"What I have heard is so far beyond disturbing," he tweeted today.

 

Senior executives from both the Commonwealth Bank and AMP were questioned at the royal commission this week.

According to counsel assisting the royal commission Mark Costello, Australia's largest bank CommBank has charged more fees for no service than any other financial services company in the country.

Last month, Commonwealth Bank chief executive-elect Matt Comyn warned his staff that things "could get ugly" for the bank, but he probably didn't realise just how ugly.

For example, as the Commonwealth Bank continued to slap fees on to dead customers for advice it wasn't providing, the problem was noted as, "possible warning to adviser".

One adviser knew a client had died in 2004, but the adviser service fees were still being charged a decade later, a 2015 document for CBA's Count Financial business shows.

 

 

According to The Australian, "one planner's client had been dead for seven years before the planner contacted his widow, and then took 'no action' to fix the continuing charges".

The adviser was getting about $65 a month in fees in 2014 and 2015.

Meanwhile, the CBA admitted it was the "gold medallist" when it comes to charging customers fees for no good reason,

Linda Elkins from CBA's wealth management arm Colonial First State was asked: "It would be the gold medallist if [the corporate regulator] was handing out medals for fees for no service, wouldn't it?"

Elkins simply replied: "Yes."

The commission heard that over eight years clients at CBA's Commonwealth Financial Planning, Count Financial and the now-closed BW Financial Planning repeatedly charged fees for financial advice when no service was in fact given.

The CBA took more than two years to tell the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) about the charges.

A CBA executive admitted the bank had "no idea what was going on" after a 2012 internal memo advised of the possibility that customers were being overcharged.

According to the ABC, the report found: "1050 clients were overcharged at least $700,000 for advice they did not receive because their financial planners had left the business before 2012.

"The report noted 5000 clients could have either been undercharged or overcharged to the tune of $4.3 million."

Commonwealth Bank has been forced to refund $118.5 million to more than 310,000 customers after charging fees for services they did not receive. That's more than half of the total $219 million compensation bill owed by the big four banks and AMP.

Meanwhile, earlier this week the royal commission heard that AMP had been charging clients for advice they never received, while its staff had lied to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

AMP executive Anthony Regan said the bank had repeatedly lied to the corporate regulator over charging fees for no service after the commission heard of letters, emails and reports showing the company had tried to keep the information quiet.

ASIC yesterday announced it has been investigating AMP's conduct in relation to "fees for no service" and "false or misleading statements to ASIC". It said it had received many thousands of documents and undertaken 18 examinations of AMP staff. ASIC is also ensuring that compensation is paid to impacted AMP clients.

Financial Services Minister Kelly O'Dwyer today acknowledged "very disturbing revelations" but Australians need more than words. They need action.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it is clear Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull "owes Australians an apology" but what Australians will really care about is an apology from the bank and to stop being treated like cash cows.

Under the existing timeline, the commission is due to provide a final report by February 2019.

But the Turnbull government would be open to extending the banking royal commission if it is requested by the man overseeing the inquiry.

- News.com.au has contacted Commonwealth Bank for comment.

- With AAP



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