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National Australia Bank delayed disclosing it mischarged clients, inquiry hears

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National Australia Bank delayed disclosing it mischarged clients, inquiry hears

National Australia Bank Ltd. charged fees for services not rendered and delayed telling the corporate regulator to avoid negative publicity, Reuters reported Aug. 13.

The ongoing royal commission into the financial services sector questioned the bank over charging pension fund customers for advice it did not provide. Internal records showed that the bank knew in 2016 of the need to refund A$34 million to more than 220,000 clients but bank executives did not disclose the extent of the matter to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission until after the bank reported its earnings for the year to September 2016 to avoid scrutiny.

The bank delayed revealing the matter as it wanted to be "seen as just one 'in the pack' rather than called out as an outlier" to its peers, according to a confidential memo from NAB corporate affairs dated October 2016. ASIC had been conducting an investigation into banks allegedly charging customers for advice not rendered since 2015 and had asked banks to provide a report with updated figures.

Andrew Hagger, a member of NAB's executive leadership team and head of wealth management at the time, told a representative from the regulator that the bank only disclosed one part of the internal probe covering about A$12 million in fees. Hagger told the commission that the bank had planned to update the regulator at a later date.