An addendum: Bankwest

Chapter 5 of the Interim Report – Bankwest and CBA – set out my conclusions about complaints that have been made regarding CBA’s conduct in respect of customers who had borrowed from Bankwest before CBA acquired Bankwest in 2008.

I seek neither to add to, nor subtract from, what I said about those matters in the Interim Report.

Since the Interim Report was published, the Solicitor Assisting the Commission, Counsel Assisting and I have received many communications from those who see themselves as ‘victims’ of Bankwest disputing what is said in the Interim Report, and asking me to re-open consideration of some or all of the issues considered in the Interim Report and, more recently, saying how necessary it is that there be a further inquiry into their complaints.

I now will make only two points.

First, as I said in the Interim Report:[1]

[I]t should not be surprising that the sense of individual grievance [of borrowers who suffered loss], joined with the grievances of others, should spark allegations that the lender did not act according to the lender’s judgments about the risks of continuing the loan to a particular borrower, but acted according to some overall plan that was at least improper if not unlawful. And this is what has happened with respect to CBA’s conduct in relation to the Bankwest business loan book. Borrowers, seeing that others were dealt with and affected in ways that they regard as relevantly similar, have formed the unshakeable view that CBA’s conduct towards them was wrong. They will not accept that CBA may have acted case by case, according to judgments made about each loan. Instead they seek to assign reasons for CBA’s conduct that they say show how and why the conduct was wrong.

Second, as those who now agitate for a new inquiry have said in their correspondence with the Commission, their allegations have been the central focus of many previous inquiries and, I would add, two cases in the Supreme Court of New South Wales that have gone to judgment.[2] Yet they say there should be yet another inquiry. I do not agree. Enough is enough.

[1] FSRC, Interim Report, vol 1, 208.

[2] FSRC, Interim Report, vol 1, 190–3.