NAB denies wasn’t candid with ASIC on fees

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A senior executive insists National Australia Bank has been candid with a regulator despite not revealing the true scale of fees-for-no-service compensation.
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NAB has been accused in the banking royal commission of delaying revealing the full extent of the compensation for superannuation customers to avoid being labelled “the worst of a bad bunch” charging fees for no service.

NAB’s consumer and wealth boss Andrew Hagger on Monday repeatedly maintained he was open and transparent with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission ahead of the October 2016 release of an industry fees report.

ASIC’s draft report put NAB’s fees-for-no-service compensation at $16.2 million, when the bank knew it was double that amount.

ASIC was given “hints” but not directly told the full compensation to superannuation customers would be $34 million, the royal commission heard.

Senior NAB executives including Mr Hagger and CEO Andrew Thorburn spent a weekend discussing what ASIC would be told.

Mr Hagger said he opened the door for the regulator to include the wider superannuation fee issues in its report by contacting ASIC commissioner Greg Tanzer on the Monday, when he “hinted” at questions the regulator could ask.

“And that then put it out of our hands whether it should be included or not because the invitation was there for ASIC to include it if they wanted it.”

Royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne QC asked: “So being open and transparent was accomplished by saying – ‘ask us what you like but we won’t tell you what to ask’?”

Mr Hagger agreed, saying NAB was hinting to ASIC what to ask having said that trustee board meetings were coming up.

Mr Hagger admitted he did not tell Mr Tanzer the board of the superannuation trustee’s administrator, which he chaired, had just approved the full remediation amount a couple of hours earlier.

Mr Hagger said he did not want to pre-empt the decision of the board of trustee NULIS, which still had to approve the full remediation.

“What I felt it was appropriate for me to do was to open the door as widely as I did, which is very wide, to ASIC, saying if you wanted to know anything further about it.”

He denied not being candid with ASIC.

The inquiry heard if the full extent of NAB’s plan service fee compensation to superannuation customers was included in the ASIC report, it would go from being in the middle of the pack to the worst of the banks.

Mr Hagger said he was not concerned about that, also denying the bank’s impending full-year results were a factor.

Mr Hagger said he indicated the dimensions of the wider fees issues “in roundabout terms”, and would have been happy to tell ASIC the $34 million figure “if they asked”.

NAB’s consumer banking and wealth management chief customer officer said the ball was in ASIC’s court.

“I could not have opened the door any wider,” he said.

The amount of compensation being paid by NAB’s super trustee NULIS over the plan service fee issue is now about $120 million.

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