In her closing address to the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry on Friday (6 June), counsel assisting the commission Rowena Orr QC alleged that ANZ may have breached two clauses of the Code of Banking Practice (CBP) and engaged in conduct that fell below community standards and expectations on multiple occasions following their acquisition of Landmark Financial Services in 2010.
Ms Orr alleged that ANZ may have breached clause 2.2 of the CBP on seven occasions and clause 25.2 on one occasion in relation to their dealings with agribusiness customers, which included the Cheesmans, who were forced to sell their place of residence to repay their debt, despite ANZ acknowledging that their home would not add value to the overall sale of the family’s farming properties.
Following on from admissions made by head of lending services, corporate and commercial Benjamin Steinberg, Ms Orr also noted that it is open to Commissioner Hayne to find that ANZ had engaged in several instances of conduct that fell below community standards and expectations.
Ms Orr claimed that such failings were attributable to the cultural issues within ANZ’s lending services division prior to 2014.
“It is also open to the commissioner to find that the misconduct and conduct falling below community standards and expectations can be contributed to the culture of lending services in the period before ANZ took steps to change that culture commencing around August 2014,” Ms Orr said.
“Before August 2014, there was no specialist agribusiness team within lending services. There were some instances where customers had not seen a bank manager for over two years, which Mr Steinberg acknowledged was not acceptable.”
Ms Orr also noted that it is open to the commissioner to find that Rabobank, Bankwest and Rural Bank also engaged in misconduct and conduct that fell below community standards and expectations.
More to come.
The fourth round of hearings of the financial services royal commission focused on issues affecting Australians living in remote and regional communities, which relate to farming finance, natural disaster insurance and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians' interactions with financial services entities.
The hearings were held in Brisbane from Monday, 25 June, to Friday, 29 June, and in Darwin from 2 July to 6 July.
[Related: RC prods ANZ over home seizure]