‘Stubborn’ banks issued firm warning
The nation's top corporate cop doubts big bank bosses want to make services fair in the wake of the royal commission and vowed to take them to court to force change.
Australian Securities and Investments Commission head James Shipton also said it was time that people responsible for bringing fairness to financial services got out a dictionary and looked up what it meant.
"I'm still not convinced there's enough wherewithal and ownership by leaders of these financial institutions to … change their thinking so that they are thinking about fairness, welfare and financial wellbeing," Mr Shipton said during a panel discussion at the ACCC National Consumer Congress today.
He said senior bankers' anonymous comments in the press that "rogue regulators" were going off on a "frolic" were "counter-productive" and "destructive".
"It's not a frolic," Mr Shipton said. "We clearly have been given a mandate by the government, by the parliament and the royal commission to do our jobs.
"We all need to get on board, including them, to make the system fairer," Mr Shipton said.
Seated beside him on stage was Australian Bankers Association chief Anna Bligh who responded by admitting there was resistance to change in banks' middle and even senior levels but "people at the very, very top are up for it".
She said the media sometimes made their anonymous sources sound more senior than they really were.
Mr Shipton disputed that, saying "I know that these comments are coming from senior folk."
Another panellist, Australian Financial Complaints Authority ombudsman David Locke, said institutions were failing to respond to it a quarter of the time.
Mr Shipton said the recent royal commission had not created a "fairness obligation", just highlighted it. It was already in the law.
Until recently, the relevant part of the Corporations Act, section 912A, carried no penalty, he said. Now breaches can be punished with fines of more than $500 million.
"We really want to make good on 912A," Mr Shipton later told News Corp Australia.
Asked how he knew the anonymous criticisms were from senior bankers, he said: "I have good evidence. My sources inform me."
Mr Shipton said executives, industry advocates and regulators needed to get out a dictionary to get a common understanding of what fairness is.
"Then actually we'll know where to head to. At the moment we just throw round this word without actually giving it delineation and definition and that's actually going to lead us (into) traps."