The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry holds its first public hearing today. The fact is that many people’s lives and livelihoods have been devastated by ruthless and greedy misconduct within the financial services industry. The Royal Commission represents an opportunity to thoroughly examine the corporate mentality of these institutions and consider frameworks for better regulation and determine the structure of management and settlement of claims by their victims into the future.
Of course, there has been doubt over whether the Royal Commission will be effective in addressing the concerns of misconduct across the industry. This Royal Commission is looking into some of Australia’s biggest corporations; the resources available to them are deep and their defence will be robust. It is therefore essential that as all those adversely affected by financial sector misconduct contribute to this inquiry. The weight of complaint will be the key factor in the efficacy of this Commission.
The role of whistleblowers will also be crucial. Former industry employees and contractors will have information about wrongful, wanton or dubious conduct within the financial services industry. Unless that information emerges, the complaints by many might be left hanging uncorroborated by evidence of systemic malpractice.
While there has been discussion about confidentiality clause of contracts and employment arrangements, the Royal Commission Act is designed to protect those that give evidence before it either as complainants or whistleblowers. Witness’ truthful statements provided by a notice to produce under the Act are protected from any form of legal action. Evidence of wrongdoing by others given at a Royal Commission is protected and essentially privileged under the Act. Further protections such as anonymising witnesses’ identities and providing evidence in private are also readily available. The Act also makes it an offence for an employer to dismiss or discriminate against a person who gives evidence before a Royal Commission.
The Banking Royal Commission will be accepting public submissions from any individual or entity that has experienced or witnessed misconduct by a relevant financial services entity. We strongly encourage anyone with useful information to come forward and to contribute to an inquiry that can assist in addressing widespread misconduct.
If you have potential evidence of financial sector misconduct or conduct that falls below community standards or expectations, O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors can assist you in your liaison with the Royal Commission, so to best protect your legal rights and any claim you may have.