NAB admits mistakes, but rejects suggestions that fees-for-no-service incidents were crimes

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  • NAB, in a submission to the royal commission, has admitted it made mistakes and that it is not perfect
  • However, it has rejected a suggestion that it may be liable for criminal charges.
  • The bank says it has learnt from the mistakes, and sought to remediate affected customers.

National Australia Bank says it has made mistakes with fees charged to superannuation fund members for advice they didn’t get, and admits it is not perfect, but rejects suggestions it has committed a criminal offence.

The bank, which is under investigation for criminal breaches of the law, today acknowledged that it is “not perfect” and “mistakes” were made.

“However, NAB and NULIS (its super fund trustee) have investigated them, learnt from their mistakes, and sought to remediate affected customers,” the bank says in a written submission to the financial services royal commission.

“NAB and NULIS submit that their conduct in this respect is consistent with what the community expects from a bank once mistakes have been identified.”

The royal commission has been told of thousands of breaches of the Corporations Act, the Superannuation Industry Supervision Act and the ASIC Act.

The bank charged fees for financial advice when customers didn’t have a financial adviser, then delayed compensation when it was discovered, failed to report breaches to ASIC on time and kept back the full extent of the problem of overcharging.

However, the NAB’s submission says the evidence given to the commission demonstrates a commitment to surfacing issues, acknowledging where errors have been made, and fixing mistakes for customers.

Any criminal charges would need to establish “intentional failure to report” a breach to the corporate regulator, it says.

“There is no evidence at all before the Commission of any intentional failure to report breaches to ASIC,” the bank says.

During hearings last month royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne rejected a request by NAB for a non-publication on a series of documents, some dealing with ASIC’s investigation, the regulator’s suspicions of wrongdoing by the bank, and remediation of wrongly charged fees.

“It is in the public interest that there be an open and transparent inquiry about how both the regulator and the regulated deal with the issue of remediation,” he said.

The royal commission was told the bank is being investigated for failing to report breaches of its license to ASIC within 10 days.

Commissioner Hayes asked Nicole Smith, the former chair of NULIS, the NAB’s superannuation trustee: “Did you think yourself taking money to which there was no entitlement raised a question of the criminal law?”

Smith replied: “I didn’t.”

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