The major banks are waiving their customer confidentiality clauses after news came out that the royal commission will not protect those who may breach such clauses by providing evidence to the commission.
Fairfax Media reported that the royal commission confirmed it will not offer legal protection to those making submissions to the commission if they breach gag orders in doing so.
This confirmation raised concerns that the lack of legal protection will hold back bank customers and employees from exposing the extent of banking malpractice to the commission because of non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements.
“The banks are using non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements to shield themselves from the most damning details of their malpractice,” said Australian Council of Trade Unions’ Assistant Secretary, Scott Connolly, last week (8 February).
ACTU called on Commissioner Kenneth Hayne to make sure all witnesses have protection from all non-disclosure, confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions relating to previous settlements by the banks, or included in employment contracts or policy.
“These agreements affect people who work for the big banks, and people who have been paid out by the banks for being victims of malpractice. The Royal Commission, and the public, has a right to hear what they have to say,” said Connolly.
On the same day, CBA, NAB, ANZ and Westpac said they will not enforce confidentiality obligations in non-disclosure or other agreements for the royal commission.
NAB said it encourages its customers who want to submit evidence to the commission.
“We are doing this because it is important to us that we support customers being heard by the Royal Commission,” said NAB’s Chief Legal and Commercial Counsel, Sharon Cook.
“We have also communicated to our people we fully support them making a submission to the Royal Commission if they would like to,” she said.
However, CBA reminded those planning to make a submission on matters covered by a non-disclosure agreement that they may need to seek the consent of those who may be named as part of their submissions.
“We also note the considerable powers of the royal commission to compel evidence and also provide protection for witnesses and other parties required to produce evidence,” said the bank.
The royal commission is holding its initial public hearing today (12 February).
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