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BFCSA: NAB ‘forgot’ to inform ASIC of $1.9m breach: Customers fleeced over 6 years.

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NAB ‘forgot’ to inform ASIC of $1.9m breach

The Australian 12:00am April 21, 2017

Ben Butler, Michael Roddan


The Australian Securities & Investments Commission was upset it learned about a six-year systems problem that hurt tens of thousands of NAB customers second-hand from sister agency the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, formerly secret documents show.

While ASIC was able to act on the information after being told about the breach, involving NAB’s Navigator investment platform, the 2014 episode underscores the regulatory confusion over which of ASIC and APRA is responsible for oversight of the big banks’ troubled wealth management arms.

Documents obtained from ASIC under Freedom of Information laws also show NAB was allowed input into drafting the press release the regulator issued about the Navigator problem, with bank executive Andrea Debenham thanking the regulator for incorporating the bank’s changes into the final version.

The revelation comes as Australian Bankers Association head Anna Bligh attacked ASIC over the habit, revealed by The Australian this week, of allowing her members to water down press releases issued by the regulator about their misdeeds.

“If the reports are accurate, then this is behaviour that will diminish confidence in the independence of the regulator,” Ms Bligh told The Australian.

“And I don’t think that’s good for the system as a whole.”

Nationals senator John Williams, who has been a leading force in parliamentary inquiries into wrongdoing at the banks, said he would question ASIC about the reports when the regulator appears before Senate Estimates next month.

“My goal in parliament has been to make ASIC a feared regulator — I wonder who is showing fear here,” he said.

Due to a system error, between 2006 and 2012 about 43,000 NAB clients who used Navigator were robbed of a total of about $1.9 million that should have been credited to their superannuation accounts.

By the time ASIC issued a press release dealing with the problem on May 2, 2014, NAB was already in the process of contacting customers to offer compensation.

A first draft of ASIC’s press release, prepared by an ASIC lawyer, included the phrase: “Navigator and (NAB trustee company) Nulis discovered the problem, established a compensation program, reported to ASIC of their own ­accord.”

However, Nick Coates, a senior manager in ASIC’s investment managers and superannuation division, struck out the words.

“No, they didn’t, they forgot to tell us,” he wrote in a note explaining the change. “APRA told us”.

He left in a sentence acknowledging NAB’s “co-operative approach” to ASIC.

Mr Coates’s note appears to contradict a statement issued by the bank on the same day as ASIC’s press release in which it said it “self-reported the error to ASIC”.

NAB yesterday said it reported the breach to both APRA and ASIC but it is believed the bank reported the breach to APRA, which then passed it on to ASIC under an information-sharing agreement between the two regulators.

At the time, NAB also said PwC was reviewing the troubled platform, which it bought from Aviva in 2009.

The review resulted in the bank paying about 62,000 clients a total of $25m in 2015.

“We have worked constructively with ASIC on our Navigator platform issue to make sure we have the right processes, systems and controls in place for our customers,” a spokeswoman said yesterday.

APRA and ASIC declined to comment.

ASIC documents relating to the episode also show it was worried about the perception it took too soft a line with the big banks.

“Initial thoughts are we are going to have to hold the line of ASIC working with entities who approach us etc etc,” a media adviser told Mr Coates in an April 14 email.

“That being said, obviously the ‘ASIC going soft with the big end of town’ line is likely to rear its head.”

Ms Bligh, a former Labor premier of Queensland who was appointed chief executive of the ABA in February, said it was “imperative to the integrity of the whole system that regulators are actually at arm’s length from institutions that they regulate — that they are, and are seen to be, at arm’s length”.

She said the behaviour exposed by The Australian was “unacceptable and would be regarded so by most Australians”.



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