The boss of prominent live export player Wellard claims “skittish” financial institutions are refusing to offer services to legitimate businesses because they are effectively being “blackmailed” by animal activists. John Klepec, executive chairman of the Perth-based, listed exporter, detailed his company’s treatment by the Commonwealth Bank and other institutions in a submission to an inquiry by Federal Parliament’s joint standing committee on trade and investment growth into financial services sector practices impacting Australia’s exports. In the submission, Mr Klepec said financial institutions were refusing to conduct business with Wellard and other livestock exporters operating in Australia’s $2 billion-a-year industry. He said Wellard was given notice in 2018 that within 12 months, CBA would no longer extend credit to the company. He claimed the bank also told Wellard it was required to close its everyday banking facilities, including trading accounts and credits cards. “Our company was experiencing some financial difficulties at the time, so the refusal to extend credit could be characterised as a business decision,” Mr Klepec said. “It is clear to Wellard, however, that the withdrawal of all banking services by CBA was clearly a choice made by the bank based on the type of industry in which Wellard operates.” Mr Klepec said Wellard’s discussions with other Australian banks — including National Australia Bank, Westpac, ANZ, and Bankwest — all resulted in a refusal to service the company, even with an everyday operating account. “It should be noted that when Wellard was interacting with these Australian banks, it had conducted a very extensive financial restructure, and was cash-at-bank positive, with zero bank debt,” he said. “Notwithstanding this, many Australian banks would not open an account and accept a cash deposit from Wellard. “It was clear in each of these discussions that the refusal was based on each bank’s credit committee and policy settings, which specifically exclude live export.” Mr Klepec said it was his understanding that other live export companies had also experienced similar issues with financial institutions. He said it was frustratingthe banks had effectively become a moral arbiter by refusing to do business with legitimate, legal businesses. Wellard had subsequently found alternatives with its principal banking now serviced out of Singapore. Wellard owns or operates three livestock vessels and has been shipping and exporting livestock around the globe for more than 40 years. A spokeswoman for CBA said it could not discuss the circumstances of individual customers or past customers, but it remained committed to supporting the agriculture industry.