SYDNEY – The Australian government began on Monday examining the country’s banks, insurers, financial services providers and pension funds, among other entities, through a royal commission established specifically for the investigation.
The year-long Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry will focus on the inappropriate conduct of financial institutions vis-ŕ-vis their clients and small businesses.
The initial public hearing, which began Monday, will be streamed live through the Royal Commission’s webcast.
In a statement published on its website, the commission said that “it cannot resolve individual disputes” and that it “cannot fix or award compensation or make orders requiring a party to a dispute to take or not to take any action.”
The commission was created in November 2017 after months of pressure from the Labor Party and Green Party, both in the opposition, to investigate the financial sector.
The opposition was also joined by some voices from the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who opposed the measure.
Criticisms against the banks for their misconduct point to the alleged manipulation of interest rates and the exploitation of clients through loans or investment advisor’s services.
In addition, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia is facing legal proceedings for having allegedly violated anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws in 53,500 transactions between November 2012 and September 2015, as it did not report transactions exceeding AU$10,000 within 10 days.
After the announcement of the establishment of the commission, the senior managers of the four major Australian banks, the Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, NAB and Westpac, expressed in a letter that although their institutions have long opposed the investigation, the measure responds to the national interest.