Banking royal commission: Inquiry slams bank for treatment of WA farmer after heart attack
The banking royal commission has been told the ANZ may have breached the industry’s code of conduct and failed to meet community expectations over the way it ended the farming career of a WA family.
Counsel assisting the inquiry, Rowena Orr, has used her summation of the recent two-week sitting of the inquiry to argue the ANZ’s treatment of the Harley family fell short of what was expected by the industry and community.
The inquiry was told the ANZ sought to default the Harleys, who had farmed a property in south-western WA for 107 years, just weeks after its patriarch had a heart attack and was awaiting surgery. The same family had been given just one day to vacate their property after failing to fully clear their $2.5 million debt.
And even after the family had left the farm, it took the ANZ six months to tell the Harleys that their outstanding $305,000 debt had been cleared.
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Ms Orr told Commissioner Kenneth Hayne there were three separate issues that all could be breaches of the banking code of conduct or community standards.
She said the issues surrounding the default of the family soon after Stephen Harley had a heart attack should be looked at closely by Mr Hayne.
“In the circumstances, it is open to the Commissioner to find that by entering into a deed in these terms, providing for immediate enforcement action if the Harleys did not repay their debt by the deadline, ANZ may have engaged in misconduct by breaching its obligation under clause 2.2 of the code of banking practice,” Ms Orr said.
“Alternatively, this may be characterised as conduct that fell below community standards and expectations.”
The commission was told of a debate over the sale of the Harley properties, with the family saying it should have been delayed until the spring of 2014 rather than being sold during winter of that year.
The ANZ has conceded that given the events of the time it may have delayed the sale.
Ms Orr said this was another issue where the commission could find the ANZ to have fallen below community standards and expectations and possibly breached the code of practice.
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