1.4 Extending the Commission

Why deal with these issues now? Why make my Final Report now? Why not extend the work of the Commission? Many suggested that I seek an extension of the time by which my Final Report was due to allow for further public hearings.

I did not seek any extension of time for this Final Report for the reasons I gave in the Introduction to the Interim Report. As I said there:[1]

The Letters Patent require me to inquire into, and report on, whether any conduct by financial services entities, including banks and their associated entities, might have amounted to misconduct and whether any conduct, practices, behaviour or business activities by those entities fall below community standards and expectations. I must execute those tasks conscious of the fact that the banking system is a central artery in the body of the economy. Defects and obstructions in the artery can have very large effects. Likewise, prolonged injections of doubt and uncertainty can affect performance.

I concluded then, and remain of the view, that these reasons oblige me to execute my tasks promptly and do so in ways that would achieve two related purposes: to identify properly the underlying causes of conduct of the kinds referred to in the Terms of Reference; and to prompt proper consideration of how best to avoid recurrence of similar conduct.

One reason often given for proposing to extend the work of the Commission was to give more persons who had been affected by relevant misconduct the chance to give evidence of those events. Throughout the work of the Commission I have paid close regard, and given great significance, to the Commission conducting a public inquiry so that there might be public exposure of misconduct and the vindication those affected by misconduct derive from its being exposed. All of the many public submissions made to the Commission were read and considered, and many were considered repeatedly.

Not every complaint that was made could be publicly examined. There were too many to do that. Hence, choices had to be made and, inevitably, the choices that were made will have disappointed those not chosen.

But the cases that were the subject of case studies were chosen as being reasonably illustrative of kinds of conduct and general issues that could be seen as emerging from the very active public engagement with the Commission’s work and from the Commission’s own investigations. The case studies provided a sufficiently broad and firm platform for drawing the conclusions that are expressed in this Report. Multiplying examples would not have altered the breadth or depth of that platform to any useful extent. And, as I point out more than once in this Report, every financial services entity, whether examined in a case study or not, must look at its own conduct and the way in which it governs itself.

The decision not to seek an extension was taken recognising that the Commission could provide no remedy to those who complained that they had been affected by misconduct. The most that could be done was to provide them with a public platform to voice their complaint. I recognise the importance of a Royal Commission in giving public voice to the issues and concerns that prompted its establishment. But the decision not to seek extension was also taken recognising the central importance that the health of the financial system has for the nation’s economy and thus for every member of this society. For me, these wider considerations were determinative.

It is time to grapple with the key questions identified. And it is necessary, therefore, to state plainly the principles and general rules that underpin the answers that are to be given.

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