The financial services royal commission and its string of public hearings made for infuriating viewing at times, and certainly for Daniel Saunders when he saw the testimony of former NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn.
When Thorburn was quizzed about NAB’s fee-for-no-service scandal, estimated to have netted the bank more than $400 million, he refused to accept that the bank had been dishonest in acquiring it.
A bemused Commissioner Kenneth Hayne then suggested that Thorburn’s proposition was that “this money fell into the pocket of NAB accidentally”.
“I can’t disagree with that… it wasn’t intended to be ours but it became ours,” Thorburn replied.
This particular stance was bewildering to Daniel Saunders.
After all, just a few years previous a NAB ATM glitch essentially let access to millions of dollars fall into his lap.
“I happened to be at the ATM and I needed some money for a round of beers and I thought, ‘if it can’t give me a balance or it won’t give me a balance I’ll try to transfer some money between my accounts,’ and I worked out this crazy loophole from there,” Saunders told TICKY.
In February 2011 he had discovered a series of ATM errors that allowed him to withdraw seemingly unlimited amounts of cash.
What followed from that fateful night at the pub was a 4-month spending spree that Saunders estimates totalled $500,000 before he voluntarily stopped after suffering anxiety attacks and notified the bank.
“I didn’t initially [consider it stealing], but definitely over time as it kept building up, I started to,” Saunders said. “I stopped because I started to think of it as stealing.”
He dobbed himself in and a few years later was convicted and sent to a maximum-security prison.
“I went to jail for 12 months and then had a suspended sentence for another 18 months. It was, in a word, ‘hectic’,” Saunders said.
“I didn’t get put in the cell with the wrong person so I’m here to tell the tale.”
While Saunders believes the fees-for-no-service scandals that have plagued the major banks including NAB were “strikingly similar” to his own case, not one bank executive is yet to face criminal charges.
What’s more is to Saunders, it doesn’t appear that anyone is even taking responsibility for revelations of misconduct.
“Mr Thorburn said something along the lines of, ‘they were overcharging dead people for ten years but they didn’t intend to so that made it ok’,” Saunders said.
“They’ve probably got a bit more responsibility to oversee that. I’m just one person, they’ve got 33,000 behind them or something like that,” he added.
“You can spin it however you want but I admitted to my crime… it’s about owning your mistakes. You have to take ownership of them. That’s what I have done and that’s what we’d like to see,” Saunders said.
With Thorburn now ousted from his job, Saunders said he has “no sympathy” for a man who is set to be paid more than $1 million in severance pay and potentially more than $20 million in NAB shares.
“They talk about changing the culture of banks but nothing will change the culture of a bank like one of their board members in jail. It would change very very quickly I guarantee you.”
As for Saunders, he is rebuilding his life after prison, working two jobs and carrying a criminal conviction forever on his record.
“There are times when you go, ‘[I] should have gone to Spain, should have gone to Mallorca, but on the whole [it’s] fine I think.”
Watch the full interview above.