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Why the banks are in denial after the royal commission

Business leader Graeme Samuel calls out the 'disappointing' response from banking's top brass.

Despite damning revelations of misconduct unveiled during the financial services royal commission, progress towards a better system is now being hindered by an attitude of denial and finger-pointing.

That’s according to former ACCC chairman and Macquarie director Graeme Samuel, who told TICKY the response by the bank executives to Kenneth Hayne’s final report has been largely disappointing.

His view follows a rebuke this week by corporate regulator ASIC, which accused the banks of failing to follow up on investigations into the fees for no service scandal.

“I have to say, I’m getting a bit pessimistic and a bit disappointed in the response,” Samuel, who is also a former AFL commissioner, told host Ticky Fullerton.

“I’m now starting to see a bit of denial going on, ‘it’s not us it’s them.’

“I’m starting to see some individuals who cloaked themselves in a careful ‘cloak of invisibility’ through the time of the royal commission suddenly starting to stick their heads above the parapets… Without accepting any culpability for their own involvement in the misconduct that was revealed,” he said.

Despite a widespread consensus that Hayne’s final report was largely a win for the major banks, Samuel said some senior staff members are now pushing back against Hayne’s recommendations as the dust settles.

“We’ve got even senior lawyers saying, well, Ken Hayne, he’ll get his comeuppance in the courts, that the sort of things he’s hoping for won’t be realised in the courts.”

“The misconduct wasn’t just at the margin it was horrendous, it was horrific. And it was something that really said to the community at large ‘we’ve got a fundamental cultural problem in our finance industry that needs to be dealt with.”

Samuel, who will be heading a capability report into the corporate regulator APRA this year, said it was too early to comment on what he expects that outcome to be.

When asked about APRA’s role regarding union pressure on industry super funds to reach political agendas, he rejected the idea that industry funds were union tools for political activism.

“I must say I’m not totally opposed to superannuation funds generally like any investor being an activist in terms of the activities of the companies they invest in,” he said.

“We do see that activism occurring and that’s the right of any shareholders to do that, it’s equally the right of other shareholders to not invest in those companies and to invest their money elsewhere.”

Watch the full interview in the video above.

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