The Commonwealth Bank of Australia has won a Choice Shonky award for the “slick PR campaign it served up to apologise for nearly a decade of dodgy financial advice.”

What Choice wanted to make very clear to the Australian public was that the CBA has been anything but contrite.

The financial services scandal was the biggest financial planning failure in Australia’s history. And that’s saying a lot when you consider the countless claims made against the self-aggrandizing shysters who have pretty much robbed everyone who has walked through their doors.

Choice Shonky Awards 2014. Image: finance.ninemsn.com.au

Choice Shonky Awards 2014. Image: finance.ninemsn.com.au

But the CBA took the prize. “After a long delay in acknowledging fault, they lobbied to remove financial advice protections while offering up a slick PR campaign in an attempt to apologise for losing consumers’ life savings,” said the Choice presenter.

The CBA faced a Senate inquiry because of the fraud and misconduct from some of its financial planners. Consumers were diddled out of huge amounts by being switched into high risk investments that benefitted the planners at the expense of the investors.

Many of these switches were made without the consent of the clients. Some planners went so far as to forge their clients’ signatures.

The Senate was outraged at what it found. Corporate regulators were asleep on the job, attempts were made to hush-up the misconduct of some of the planners, and the general response by the CBA has been described as weak.

Ian Narev has more recently issued an apology to the 12,000 or so customers affected by the scandal. The CBA has issued a compensation package for around $52 million to the worst affected 1100 of them.

The scurrilous activity went on between 2003 and 2012. Since it came to light the CBA has done everything it could to delay, distract and distance itself from what has happened. In fact, said Alan Kirkland (Choice Chief Executive), “at the very same time as making that apology, the CBA was actively lobbying the parliament to remove financial advice protections for consumers. This twisted corporate logic defines what the Shonkys is all about. Saying one thing to the public and doing the opposite when they think no one is looking.”

Image: www.choice.com.au

Image: www.choice.com.au

Choice is concerned about the recent wind back of the Future of Financial Advice (FoFA) earlier this year. With it gone clients of financial advisers are once again without key protections. A government committee is looking at methods able to increase the education levels of advisers. But protections for consumers seem to be on no consequence; as Mr Kirkland put it: This would only “lead to better educated advisers taking advantage of consumers.”

“FoFA regulation and legislation must be amended to establish a clear, professional obligation for advisers to act in their clients’ best interests with no exceptions.

“We also need to rule out all kinds of conflicted payments like commissions for insurance products and bonuses for bank staff.

“Until we fix FoFA, the CBA’s of the world will be able to continue their shonky behaviour.”

Choice received 1041 nominations for this year’s Shonky awards.

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