NAB fires 20 bankers over 2300 cases of loan fraud

Two years on and the bank is ready to remedy affected customers.

Twenty bankers have been sacked and another 32 reprimanded after they jeopardised the mortgages of 2300 homeowners, resulting in the launch of a compensation program by NAB.

NAB made the disclosure two years after it first realised members of its staff, together with commission-paid agents, were taking liberties with loan applications as early as 2013 by filling in parts of them.

Another investigation is now underway to determine if applications were falsified and forged, which could lead to some of the 2300 affected customers being offered compensation.

CHOICE understands a minority of these customers have not been able to service their loans.

"We have investigated this matter thoroughly," says Andrew Haggar, chief customer officer for consumer banking at NAB.

"As we have always said, whenever we find issues we will investigate them, fix them, and hold people to account – and we did."

The bank terminated 20 staff members as a result, and reprimanded another 32 bankers by reducing their pay.

NAB reported the findings of an "initial high-level review" to the financial regulator in December 2015. The investigation found a network of accountants, solicitors, financial planners and realtors – who were receiving commission payments from NAB under its Introducer Program – worked with the bank's staff in the improper handling of mortgage applications.

The bank claims it has since revised its Introducer Program, but a spokesperson would not confirm if any changes have been made to the commission structure.

It is unclear why it has taken nearly two years to make the conduct public and launch a subsequent remediation program.

Frontline lenders have an obligation to detect and mitigate the risks of loan fraud, says John Price, commissioner of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), adding that the commission is watching NAB's handling of the issue.

"ASIC continues to investigate the conduct of those involved in this matter," he says, "and that process is well advanced."

Financial Rights Legal Centre acknowledges NAB has been proactive in its dealing with loan fraud, but warns the issue is systemic to the mortgage brokering and lending industry.

"We would like to see all banks taking proactive steps to review loans and arrangements with brokers to ensure consumers affected are compensated accordingly and rogue operators are disciplined or terminated," says Alexandra Kelly, a principal solicitor at the community law centre.

"It is critical too that measures are put in place to ensure that these rogue operators are not left to simply get jobs in other financial institutions."