National Australia Bank’s wealth management arm has been sanctioned by the Australian federal court after it discovered that two of its superannuation trustee companies, Nulis Nominees and MLC Nominees, made false and misleading statements to clients.
The two firms misrepresented superannuation customers’ entitlement to charge plan service fees and their obligations to pay the fees.
This resulted in a A$57.5m fine (£32m, $41.7m, €35.3m), of which A$49.5m to be paid by MLC and A$8m by Nulis.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (Asic) said that the two trustees deducted over A$100m in fees from clients who either did not have an adviser, or whose plan did not require the services of an adviser.
Making an example
Asic deputy chair Daniel Crennan said: “The penalty imposed by the court reflects the very serious contraventions by MLC Nominees and Nulis and is the largest total penalty yet imposed in a civil action filed by Asic.
“As the court observed, civil penalties must be sufficiently high to deter repetition by the contravener and others who might be tempted to contravene. Achieving specific and general deterrence by pursuing civil penalties through the courts is a key focus of the Office of Enforcement.
“Fees for no service conduct is particularly egregious, having resulted in substantial financial loss for thousands of unsuspecting consumers.
“Asic will continue to bring enforcement action against this misconduct and other case studies from the Financial Services Royal Commission. This demonstrates our resolve to deliver on the public’s expectation that we hold wrongdoers of all dimensions to account.”