Bank kept billing dead people
THE National Australia Bank continued charging advice fees to superannuation customers after they died, an inquiry has heard.
The banking royal commissioner has raised the question of whether taking money for no service breaks criminal and civil laws, amid a wider fees-for-no-service scandal across the financial services industry.
NAB is paying more than $100 million in compensation to super customers charged a plan service fee for general advice when they did not have an adviser linked to their account.
The bank, which has Australia's largest retail super fund, has admitted super members have also been charged adviser service fees when the services were not provided.
Nicole Smith, the recently-departed chair of its super trustee NULIS, revealed it included adviser service fees continuing to be deducted from a member's account after NULIS or another trustee had been advised of their death. That occurred "for a period" or until the retirement benefit had been paid out, Ms Smith's statement to the commission said.
Ms Smith on Wednesday said the issue was identified in May this year, with the regulator notified in June.
It followed investigations into whether NULIS was deducting fees from people who had died in the wake of royal commission revelations involving Australia's largest bank.
The May financial advice hearing revealed some advisers at Commonwealth Bank of Australia subsidiary Count Financial continued charging clients fees after they died, in one case for more than a decade.
NAB's Ms Smith has outlined other cases of fees for no service being deducted from super member accounts, including where there was no active adviser, and an issue with the fund administrator retaining fees instead of paying them to the adviser.
The bank has denied trying to find way to avoid refunding money to super customers for a plan service fee for general advice they should not have been charged, given there was no adviser linked to their account. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission last year imposed additional licence conditions on NULIS over breakdowns in internal procedures, partly connected to the plan service fee issue.
Documents from 2016 show ASIC had favoured imposing an enforceable undertaking. Senior counsel assisting the commission Michael Hodge QC asked if the trustee thought it got off lightly given ASIC did not suggest taking court action against NULIS or the administrator.
Ms Smith said absolutely not.
She said the possibility of facing a civil proceeding was not contemplated by the trustee.
Commissioner Kenneth Hayne QC questioned if there was any contemplation of a criminal proceeding, but Ms Smith said no.
She added that ASIC was still investigating one of the plan service fee matters. Mr Hayne asked: "Did you think that taking money to which there was no entitlement raised a question of the criminal law?" Ms Smith said she did not.