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Royal commission to investigate SME misconduct

Royal commission to investigate SME misconduct

Investigation, examine, business, magnifying glass

The financial services royal commission’s next round of public hearings is set to focus on Australian SMEs, it has been announced, with hearings due to kick off in late May.

Round three of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry will be addressing issues relating to SMEs and will commence on 21 May in Melbourne.

Prior to the commencement of proceedings, Australian Small Business and Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell welcomed the commission, noting that previous inquiries had identified cases where small businesses had suffered from “questionable conduct”.

At this stage it is not clear whether the hearings would focus on SMEs that had been involved in misconduct or on SMEs that had been impacted by misconduct – or both.

More information regarding topics to be covered by the commission concerning SMEs would be released a few weeks prior to the commencement of the third round of hearings.

Applications for leave to appear have not been opened, but the commission has noted that it will advise stakeholders when it is open to receiving submissions.

Royal commission recap

The first round of public hearings, held between 13 March and 23 March, considered issues concerning the treatment of consumers by banks and financial service providers in connection with credit products, which included residential mortgages, car finance and credit cards.

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The initial round identified breaches of responsible lending obligations by Australia’s major banks and third-party intermediaries, with ANZ, the Commonwealth Bank and its third-party subsidiary Aussie Home Loans, NAB and Westpac all appearing before the commission.

The second round of public hearings, which commenced on 16 April, has investigated the conduct of financial advisers, including the treatment of consumers, compliance with the law as well as community standards and expectations, and the sufficiency of the current legal and regulatory structure.

Among the revelations of misconduct identified by the commission were AMP’s concession that its financial planning division charged clients “fees for no service” as well as inappropriate advice issued by advisers that adversely affected the financial wellbeing of customers.

The second round of hearings concluded on 27 April.

Royal commission to investigate SME misconduct
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