Commonwealth Bank charged dead clients advice fees: banking commission

Australia's largest bank, the Commonwealth Bank, has come under fire at a royal commission over charging customers for financial advice they never received.

Some Commonwealth Bank financial advisers kept charging clients fees after they died, in one case for more than a decade, a royal commission has heard.

One Count Financial planner knew his client had died in January 2004 but was still reaping almost $1000 a year in fees in December at 2015.

"When asked he said he didn't know what to do and he had tried to contact the public trustee and had not heard back," a Count Financial document noted.

The recommended action included refunding the fees to the client's estate and a possible warning for the adviser.

The 2015 investigation revealed other examples of dead clients among broader cases of Count Financial planners charging fees for advice services customers never received.

The document noted one adviser was not providing ongoing services to clients, including charging a dead client for six years.

In that case, the customer died in 2007 and contact was made with the client's wife in 2013 but no action was taken.

Count's investigation found another adviser in its network had provided no advice to any client but was receiving ongoing service fees, including for someone who died in March 2015.

Executive General Manager of Commonwealth Private Marianne Perkovic (right) leaves the banking services royal commission in Melbourne.

The Commonwealth Bank has been dubbed the "gold medallist" of the "fees for no service" problems across Australia's big four banks and largest wealth manager AMP.

CBA has refunded $118.5 million to customers of its Commonwealth Financial Planning, Count Financial and the now-closed BW Financial Advice businesses who were charged fees for no service, mainly between July 2007 and June 2015.

The royal commission heard on Thursday that Commonwealth Financial Planning had complaints from customers for six years before the bank notified the corporate regulator in 2014.

Senior CBA executive Marianne Perkovic, who had overall responsibility for its financial advice businesses from 2012 to 2016, said the bank apologised for the customer complaints.

Pressed by senior counsel assisting the commission Michael Hodge QC, she conceded CFP knew it had a "fees for no service" problem before its August 2014 breach notice to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Mr Hodge said: "You knew earlier."

Ms Perkovic replied: "We knew there were isolated complaints but not systemic to the nature in 2014."


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Published 19 April 2018 at 2:08pm, updated 19 April 2018 at 11:28pm