NAB is 'sorry', but says there were no crimes

SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty ImagesAndrew Thorburn, National Australia Bank (NAB) Group Chief Executive Officer
  • Evidence to the financial services royal commission shows the NAB is under investigation for criminal breaches of the Corporations ACT.
  • CEO Andrew Thorburn has apologised but says the bank did not act criminally.
  • “… we do not believe they are criminal breaches and we certainly do not believe they are criminal acts.”

The NAB, after its lawyers tried to suppress in the financial services royal commission documents showing possible criminal counts of breaches of its licence, has again said it is sorry.

The CEO, Andrew Thorburn, says the bank “failed to serve our customers with honour” but he doesn’t believe the bank has committed a crime.

“They (breaches) are suspected and not proven,” he says.

Confronting the NAB is allegations in the royal commission that it charged fees for no service to superannuation fund customers, then delayed compensation when it was discovered, failed to report breaches on time and kept back the full extent of the problem of overcharging of customers.

“Once again we have been confronted in the royal commission where we have let you down. Where we haven’t met that standard and I am sorry for that,” Thorburn told staff and customers in a video message.

“It is clear in this case and in others that we have failed you.”

However, in a series of interviews Thorburn says the bank didn’t act criminally.

“We do not believe they are criminal acts,” he says.

He says the breaches claimed by corporate regulator ASIC are unresolved, only suspected and not proven.

“The point we are making is that we do not believe they are criminal breaches and we certainly do not believe they are criminal acts.”

Royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne yesterday 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.

Evidence yesterday referred to a letter from ASIC to Nicole Smith, the former chair of NULIS, the NAB’s superannuation trustee, dated May 9, 2018, and headed “Suspected misconduct by NAB Group”.

Earlier in the week Commissioner Hayes asked Smith: “Did you think yourself taking money to which there was no entitlement raised a question of the criminal law?”

Smith: “I didn’t.”

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