Banking royal commission: document shows NAB bosses well aware of fraud | Australia news

National Australia Bank has been chastised for withholding a document from the banking royal commission that showed bosses knew about widespread fraud in its controversial “introducer program” months before telling the regulator.

The commission’s second day of hearings also heard evidence on Wednesday of NAB’s desire to begin a compensation program for customers who had been affected by an alleged bribery ring involving NAB staff in 2015, chiefly to protect the bank’s reputation.

With Anthony Waldron, NAB’s head of broker partnerships, giving evidence for the second consecutive day, senior counsel assisting, Rowena Orr QC, began by announcing that NAB’s counsel had handed her a crucial document on Wednesday morning, despite being required to provide all relevant documents to the commission by 13 February.

The document was minutes of NAB’s principal board risk committee meeting from 4 November 2015.

“Have you seen this document before?” Orr asked Waldron.

“No, I have not,” Waldron replied.

Orr said the document showed that NAB’s group chief risk officer had made a report to the principal board risk committee on 4 November 2015 about potentially fraudulent payments being made as part of NAB’s introducer program. This included non-financial experts, such as gym instructors and real estate agents, referring strangers to NAB for home loans in return for a commission.

NAB revealed last year that 20 staff had either been fired or resigned over the introducer scandal, but fresh details emerged in the hearing on Wednesday.

Orr wanted to know why the fresh document had not been handed to the commission until Wednesday morning. Waldron said he had no idea.

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Orr said the document showed the risk committee was aware of a serious problem with the scheme by 4 November 2015. But NAB had not made a statutory breach report to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (Asic) until February 2016, three months later.

She noted NAB had engaged an external consultant, KPMG, on 11 December 2015 to identify the issues surrounding the potential fraud, and that NSW police were first told about the potential fraud on 16 December 2015.

She also noted that on 21 December 2015, NAB wrote to Asic for the first time about the potential fraud, saying the bank had started an investigation into some bankers in western Sydney, but that NAB had not provided a formal statutory breach report to Asic until February 2016.

Waldron was then also asked about minutes of a different NAB meeting – this one from October 2016 – where NAB executives discussed making compensation payments to customers who had been affected by alleged fraud under the introducer program.

Orr read from the minutes: “It was noted that despite the investigations and file reviews being active for 12 months, no customer remediation of compensation has been actioned, and at some point the trigger will need to be pulled to minimise any potential reputation impacts.”

Orr then asked if the concern was only about limiting damage to the bank’s reputation.

Waldron replied: “I don’t agree that was the intent of the meeting, [but] absolutely that is what’s minuted.”

Waldron said NAB had so far identified 1,360 customers who may have been affected by misconduct by up to 60 bankers, but it was still working through its file review process.

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He said NAB had contacted 71% of the customers on its files who may have been affected, up from 50% a couple of weeks ago.

Orr asked him if NAB had paid any remediation to any customers yet, and Waldron said NAB hadn’t.

“As at last Friday, we had identified that there would be about 26 of those [customers] that we would be making offers to over the next little while,” he said.

Orr asked: “When did NAB start talking to these customers?”

Waldron replied: “We would have started talking to them, or trying to contact them, in November last year.”

Orr said: “But in March [2018], no one yet has received an offer for remediation?”

Waldron replied: “No not yet … [but some will] in the next week or two.”

Orr suggested that the work NAB had been putting into its file review process had “gone into over-drive” since December last year, and wondered if that was because of the looming royal commission hearing.

Waldron replied: “We certainly haven’t added additional people to do it, we’ve absolutely kept to our team of experts there to do it. It’s certainly top of mind, but it’s not sped up the process per se.”