Senate stalks banking sharks

Ian Rogers

The economics committee of the Senate will conduct its second inquiry into the banking industry in 18 months, this time with a mandate "to examine recent developments in the banking sector arising out of the impact of the Global Financial Crisis and subsequent events."

National Party Senator John Williams is the prime supporter of this inquiry. Williams has a long record as an antagonist of the industry dating back to the foreign currency loan flap of the late 1980s.

Others agitating for an inquiry may regard the fourth term of reference as the critical one. This relates to "the impact on borrowing and lending practices in the banking sector both during and since [the GFC]."

It is under this heading that the Unhappy Banking lobby, which has numerous axes to grind over the approach taken by Commonwealth Bank to the management of the commercial property loans of its subsidiary Bankwest, say they have a lot to say.

"This inquiry will hopefully get to the ugly business end of the dealings with Bankwest customers since 2008" was the claim posted on the Unhappy Banking website yesterday.

These "dealings", in a nutshell, allegedly include CBA policy to direct line management to collude with valuers and receivers to depress the value of assets to the detriment of the borrower (even though almost by definition it is also to the detriment of the lender, though here the analysis overlaps with murky claims over the arrangements that CBA supposedly had with Lloyds Banking Group for the hurried takeover of Bankwest in late 2008).

Does the Unhappy Banking lobby group have much decent evidence?

We'll see.