A so-called “independent” report compiled by law firm Clayton Utz about AMP’s Buyer of Last Resort policy and related compliance breaches has been the subject of intense cross-examination at the royal commission.
Counsel assisting Michael Hodge QC’s questioning of AMP group executive Jack Regan continued for the full proceedings of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, focusing on AMP’s admitted ‘fees for no service’ conduct relating to the contentious BOLR practice within its dealer group network.
Mr Hodge grilled Mr Regan about a review of this issue that AMP contracted Clayton Utz to undertake and the alleged involvement of AMP board and senior staff in influencing the outcomes of that review and its final report.
The commission heard evidence of a number of phone calls, email exchanges and draft report exercises between AMP executives, its internal legal team and the Clayton Utz reviewers.
“Is this consistent with your understanding of how an independent report would be prepared?,” Mr Hodge asked Mr Regan.
“I agree there’s a lot of exchanges there,” Mr Regan conceded. “It would be up to [Clayton Utz partner Nicholas] Mavrakis to decide on the degree of independence.”
Mr Regan went on to reveal that the AMP board met and approved changes to the final report following the ostensibly independent review and that AMP chair Catherine Brenner make specific requests for amendment.
“Why would the board be approving changes to an independent report?” Mr Hodge asked.
“Because it was a report being accepted by the board,” Mr Regan said.
Mr Hodge suggested that the independent report was subsequently relied upon in evidence provided by AMP to ASIC.
“And do you feel any discomfort at having met with ASIC and said to them, ‘this is an independent report’ in light of what you've now seen?” Mr Hodge asked.
“There is a level of discomfort, yes.”
In summarising the day’s exchange, Commissioner Ken Hayne seemed to indicate he considers this evidence of the Clayton Utz report to be significant, suggesting that AMP may wish to supply some additional information in addition to Mr Regan’s testimony.
The revelation follows as many as 20 admissions from AMP of providing false and misleading statements to ASIC.
The royal commission financial advice hearings will continue tomorrow. Follow live at https://www.ifa.com.au/strategy/25404-royal-commission-financial-advice-hearings-live-blog
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