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BFCSA: Banks' $220m bill for dudding customers to rise 'significantly': ASIC

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Banks' $220m bill for dudding customers to rise 'significantly': ASIC

Sydney Morning Herald 30 May 2018 11:30pm

By Clancy Yeates


Banks are set to refund "significantly" more than the $220 million already set aside for financial advice clients who were charged for services that were never provided, as institutions search their files for customers who were ripped off.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission also told Senate estimates on Wednesday night it was investigating a Dollarmites account scam at the Commonwealth Bank after it found out more details about the incident through the media, and it was looking into the revelation CBA charged some dead clients for advice.

ASIC also said the conduct of AMP, which has been embroiled in crisis due to revelations at the royal commission, was "extremely disappointing." AMP is the subject of a powerful ASIC investigation, after it admitted to repeatedly misleading the regulator at last month's royal commission hearings on financial advice.

Officials from the watchdog were on Wednesday night questioned about the scandals being probed by the royal commission into misconduct in finance, including the fact the big four banks and AMP charged "fees for no service" in financial advice.

This issue was first exposed by ASIC in 2016, but the royal commission last month uncovered new details, including that CBA wrongly charged some clients who had died.

ASIC deputy chair Peter Kell said it it was looking into the issue further with CBA, and said there would be more refunds paid by banks over the fees for no service issue.

"There's around $220 million so far that's been identified for remediation, and more than 300,000 clients across the five largest entities. We expect that to grow significantly, I'm afraid to say, because some of those entities are still undertaking reviews around who has been charged fees without advice being provided," Mr Kell said.

"Within that mix, yes it's now become apparent that with CBA, some of those clients were deceased, which is obviously completely unsatisfactory and we'll be following up on that aspect of it."

ASIC senior executive Louise Macaulay said the watchdog had not been specifically informed by CBA that it had charged fees for no service to dead people. She indicated it was possible the customers' names had been provided by the bank but it had not made plain to ASIC that some of these clients were deceased.

Mr Kell was also asked about this month's Fairfax Media report that thousands of children's bank accounts were illegitimately activated by CBA staff, and he said the matter was being taken "very seriously."

Mr Kell said CBA had reported the matter to ASIC, but it found out "the detail" of the issue in the media.

"We are reviewing information that we've obtained from the bank obtained under notice, in order to inform decisions on next steps, and that includes the breadth of the conduct," Mr Kell said.

"I don't want to pre-judge what actions we might take, but we're taking it very seriously, and as I said it's the subject of an investigation."

Mr Kell said AMP's conduct in charging advice fees without providing services to customers was "extremely disappointing," but he defended ASIC's decision in 2006 to enter into an enforceable undertaking with the wealth giant.

As the royal commission raises questions about ASIC's performance, new chairman James Shipton promised a "more intrusive" approach to supervising the country's largest financial institutions.

"This will involve more intensive, day-to-day supervision, with better co-operation between our fellow regulators, especially with APRA," he said.

"This approach will be more intrusive, enduring and, with onsite visits, more physical."

The government last month unveiled tougher civil penalties for corporate misconduct, and Mr Kell said this was the first overhaul of these penalties since 1993 and it was "long overdue."


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