Read It and Weep

Read It and Weep

Counter Corruption Analysts (CCA) has published papers regarding widespread corruption within Australia’s major banks and the NSW government.

Three papers were published over the last week and more are expected to follow. The material pertains to cases the CCA is currently investigating; topics range from mismanaged water supply to homeless farmers. Still under investigation by the team are two cases involving people with disabilities rorted by their banks.

The CCA was set up earlier this year to help the rising issues of small business and farmers losing out to deceitful bankers. After partnering with ‘Bank Victims’ the CCA realised the problem was much bigger and have since taken on cases from individuals.

The CCA say the papers on the website are only the tip of the iceberg and they have rather big fish they are working on bringing to justice, however, lips remain sealed on who or what they are referring to.

To read the full papers follow these links

Summaries of the cases:

CASE: NAB Priestley’s Case 

The first paper, published at the end of last week, is about Claire and Chris Priestley, brother and sister farmers out in Walgett NSW. Like many in agribusiness the Priestley’s suffered much hardship following drought and flooding.

The 2011 the crop looked promising but their bank, NAB, refused to negotiate the loan, instead deciding to foreclose. NAB gave them a month to leave the farm, when they didn’t they were forcibly removed and the property that had been in their family for five generations, worth more that $10 million was sold for $8.7 million.

When the Priestley’s first signed a contract with NAB in 2004 they assumed, as anyone would, the bank would comply with the Code of Banking Practice and investigate any breaches of the code.

What the bank failed to tell the Priestley’s was when they demanded the pair attend mediation in 2010, they effectively waived their rights to further investigation. NAB was following the unpublished Code Compliance Monitoring Committee (CCMC) constitution that effectively stated, ‘when you go to mediation, you lose the right to have the issue investigated by the CCMC’.

CASE: NSW Government Water Management

Between 2003-2006, the Jenolan Caves Hotel staff found the water supplied by the government was making them unwell. The businesses in the village hired an independent expert to test the water and determine whether the water was potable.

Tests revealed the water was not fit for human consumption.

Any issues with the water coming from outside the hotel fell under the NSW Government’s management. The government claimed their test had found no abnormalities so the water was fine to drink.

The water issues only worsened and the hotel and bistro was finding it hard to accommodate guests without a steady, drinkable water supply.

In October 2011, JMA principal David Templeton, wrote to the Minister for Justice, Greg Smith SC, Premier O’Farrell, Environment Minister Parker, Health Minister Skinner and Member for Bathurst Toole, setting out details of the water issues. In March 2012, the government replied stating the water quality issues were adequately addressed at the time, and no further inquiry was warranted. In June, the JMA Parties filed an application under the GIPA Act, which led to orders by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal requiring the government to provide all documents in relation to water. Three years later, documents were provided to ADT indicating the water issues were never investigated. A recent document obtained under the GIPA Act provided evidence that relevant documents were concealed from the Tribunal.

CASE: ST GEORGE BANK’S UNFAIR CONTRACT

The St George case was commissioned by the same group from Jenolan Cave. who suffered with the water issues. In 2005 the business started to struggle following issues with the water and the government’s decision to appoint an Administrator.

At the same time, St George Bank recalled the lessee’s loan. The bank appointed Receivers and Managers and, on 6 June 2006, they wrote to the lessee stating the lease had not been offered for sale nor had they received any unsolicited offers.

Ten days later, on 16 June 2006, the lessee filed a complaint with St George Bank’s Chairman, Mr John Thame. It noted the bank’s responsibility to comply with its Code of Banking Practice. This was an important part of the lessee’s contract, setting out rights of customers. The particular clauses referred to the St George Bank’s Chair included clause 25.2, which required banks to “try to help customers overcome financial difficulties.” The Chair was also referred to clause 35.3, stating the bank will “within 21 days … complete its investigation and inform the customer of the outcome.”

Instead of complying with the contract, the bank sold the property, with all furnishings in the hotel, to the government at 10% of independent valuations, two weeks later. As a result, many of the people involved in the businesses at Jenolan Caves suffered damages.