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BFCSA: Banking royal commission warns victims to not breach gag orders. Prepare to Vomit!

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Banking royal commission warns victims to not breach gag orders

Sydney Morning Herald Feb 7 2018 - 5:48pm

Sarah Danckert

 

The banking royal commission has confirmed it will offer no legal protections to  victims and whistleblowers if they breach gag orders when making submissions to the inquiry.

The official advice, provided by the royal commission to Fairfax Media ahead of is first hearing in Melbourne on Monday, has raised concerns that the process will not detail scandals the banks have previously sought to cover up.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the royal commission confirmed it would not be overriding confidentiality agreements in settlements between individuals and the banks.

“In relation to the issue of non-disclosure provisions in settlements... at this stage of the inquiry, we would not want individuals to provide information that may be in breach of legal obligations by voluntarily providing such information,” the spokesman said in response to questions about non-disclosure agreements and non-disparagement agreements.

This approach stands in contrast to the approach taken in the royal commission into institutional response to child sexual abuse where victims who had signed confidentiality agreements to receive compensation were allowed to make submissions without risking legal action from the other party to the agreement.

Non-disclosure agreements are standard in most settlements agreements between the banks and their victims.

Another form of gag order are non-disparagement clauses which are often inserted into settlements between whistleblowers and companies to ensure the whistleblower’s information does not get aired in public.

The spokesman said that the royal commission had powers to compel evidence, both in person or through documents and, in those circumstances, could provide protections for witnesses and parties required to produce evidence.

 “If in a particular case these powers are exercised, the existence of a confidentiality agreement will not prevent the person from complying with the notice or summons. The commission will be giving consideration of the use of these powers in this inquiry,” the spokesman said.

CBA financial planning whistleblower Jeff Morris said victims and whistleblowers would be scared off by the threat of legal retribution meaning the royal commission would not uncover the truth.

“The royal commission’s approach would be like relying on paedophile priests nominating their victims. How’s the royal commission supposed to know who they should be contacting?,” Mr Morris said.

“The banking sector has existed on confidentiality to keep things quiet. The banks have made scandalous use of these confidentiality agreements.''

Financial Services Union national secretary Juila Angrisano said senior managers and executives used “onerous” confidentiality clauses in staff contracts that limit employees ability to talk publicly about their employer as well as non-disclosure agreements for customers.

“The powers of a royal commission to compel evidence do override these agreements and contracts, once the matter is within the ambit of the commission – but people who have stories to tell cannot approach the commission without first breaching the agreement,” Mr Angrisano said.

“It's a catch-22 that stands between ordinary people and the justice they deserve.''

In an opinion piece for Fairfax Media, Ms Angrisano called for the financial services royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne to mimic the approach of the child abuse royal commission and order financial institutions to waive their rights in respect to any confidentiality agreements.

 

The Australian Bankers Association referred questions to the royal commission.

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