NAB faces criminal investigation over fees

National Australia Bank has potentially committed more than 100 criminal offences over charging hundreds of thousands of customers fees without providing a service.

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The corporate regulator is investigating “suspected offending” by NAB as part of the wider fees-for-no-service scandal across the financial services industry, documents before the banking royal commission reveal.

NAB denies committing any criminal acts.

In the documents about the fees-for-no-service issues, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission accused the bank of failing to report significant breaches of its licence on time on 110 occasions.

Failing to comply with breach reporting requirements is a criminal offence, although the regulator can take a range of administrative, civil and criminal actions.

The number of late breach reports was disputed by NAB, which told ASIC in May it identified 84 significant breaches reported outside the required 10-day time frame.

In the documents, ASIC also said it was concerned NAB contravened sections of the Corporations Act and ASIC Act – some of which may carry criminal as well as civil penalties – over the issue of fees wrongly charged to superannuation members.

NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn apologised to customers via Twitter over the revelations at this week’s royal commission hearing, which include the bank charging more than 4000 dead superannuation customers $3 million in fees.

In an email to all staff on Thursday, Mr Thorburn said: “We do not believe that we have committed any criminal acts”.

NAB’s superannuation trustee NULIS is paying $120 million to compensate about 300,000 customers charged a plan service fee for general advice services when they had no adviser linked to their account.

The royal commission documents show ASIC may still take action despite the compensation program.

“As we have said, ASIC does not consider remediation to be the only regulatory action required to address the conduct that has resulted in harm to the plan service fees members,” it said in a letter to NAB and NULIS in June.

Other documents tendered at the inquiry showed ASIC believed NAB was out of step with some of its major peers over fees-for-no-service remediation.

Commissioner Kenneth Hayne QC on Thursday rejected NAB’s request to suppress all or part of seven documents related to the extent of it charging fees for no service and its approach to compensating customers.

He said while it would be in NAB’s interests to pay the least sum available by way of mediation, it would be in the interests of customers charged fees for no service to be provided with adequate compensation.

Senior counsel assisting the commission Michael Hodge QC criticised NAB for producing more than 3000 documents to the inquiry last week.

Automatic AFL punch bans coming: Higgins

North Melbourne veteran Shaun Higgins can see a time when the AFL will be forced to automatically suspend players for punching an opponent, regardless of the force of the blow.

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The Kangaroos star, who is routinely targeted physically by opposition players, feels punches thrown to the body are part of the game that should be eradicated.

The practice – carried out in a bid to establish a psychological edge, put an opponent off his game or shake a tag – has been in the spotlight following Andrew Gaff’s eight-game ban for breaking Andrew Brayshaw’s jaw.

At his tribunal hearing, the Eagles highlighted several incidents where Gaff was targeted off the ball before he lashed out at Brayshaw.

Gaff also admitted to punching Brayshaw in the chest to give himself some space before the ugly incident played out.

Under the current guidelines, players are fined if they intentionally strike an opponent with low impact to the body.

But Higgins feels that’s not enough of a deterrent.

“I think it’s probably going to get to that stage,” Higgins replied when it was put to him that bans for any sort of punch were required.

“We probably went down that path 12 to 18 months ago, didn’t we? Then we’ve sort of backtracked a little bit for whatever reason.

“I would imagine that most players, the AFL and clubs would agree that there’s no place in the game for punches being thrown.”

While Higgins is all for outlawing niggling punches, he still feels there’s room for a level of physical aggression.

“It’s still a contact sport,” he said.

“It’s a physical sport but I think punching we can definitely eradicate from the game.

“Bumping and trying to get mentally on top of the opposition and physically trying to impose yourself is still part and parcel of the game but there’s definitely a line there.

“It’s probably been crossed a number of times this year.”

Government risking rift with crossbench

Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm has accused Malcolm Turnbull of breaking a deal with him.The Turnbull government could face increased pressure from crossbench senators on a range of issues after being accused of breaking a deal with key supporter David Leyonhjelm.

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The Liberal Democrats senator wants Malcolm Turnbull to honour his agreement to guarantee a vote in both houses on legislation to lift the ban on territories legislation on voluntary euthanasia.

Senator Leyonhjelm said it was a matter of honour for the prime minister.

He pointed to the implications that reneging on the agreement could have for “future trust and co-operation” between the crossbench and government.

Mr Turnbull argues the deal was only for a vote in the Senate, not both houses.

But Senator Leyonhjelm says the prime minister gave him his word in face-to-face discussions.

The deal was for his crucial support on re-establishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

“Knowing that it hasn’t stuck to its deal in this instance would be somewhat significant to many of the crossbench,” Senator Leyonhjelm told AAP.

“That will affect the government’s relationships in the Senate.”

Souring relations with the crossbench could get messy for the government.

The coalition needs eight of the 10 independent, One Nation and Centre Alliance senators to pass its legislation.

The upper house is set to debate Senator Leyonhjelm’s legislation on Tuesday lifting the ban on NT and ACT controlling their own euthanasia laws.

After it is dealt with, corporate tax cuts will be on the agenda, with the government still trying to garner crossbench support for the policy.

Muesli boss jailed for killing colleague

The loved ones of a Melbourne woman may never know the motive for her murder in a “frenzied stabbing attack” by a man she considered family.

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On the morning of July 25, 2017, Peter Pavlis – the founder of established food brand The Muesli Company – fatally stabbed his business partner Jennifer Borchardt six times in the kitchen of her Richmond home.

He tried to clean the crime scene and pretended to colleagues that he was concerned about Ms Borchardt’s absence from work.

He changed his clothes and lied about the reason he had a fresh knife wound on his thumb.

The same afternoon, Ms Borchardt’s partner returned home to “find the lifeless body of the woman he loved”.

The reason Pavlis killed the 49-year-old remained “opaque”, Supreme Court of Victoria Justice Lesley Taylor said during sentencing on Thursday.

It was previously suggested to the court he was perhaps jealous or angry about Ms Borchardt’s new relationship, although there was no evidence to support the theory.

Pavlis also told a psychiatrist he had found a box full of $100 notes in Ms Borchardt’s home and believed she had engaged in financial misconduct, although the cash was never discovered at the crime scene.

“I do not accept that it was ever there,” Justice Taylor said.

“I am unable to discern the true motive for your behaviour.”

She denounced Pavlis’ betrayal of Ms Borchardt’s trust, loyalty and affection.

“You were a man very much trusted by her. She had started to work in your company as a teenager and grew to become your business partner,” Justice Taylor said.

“She was encouraged to think that she was part of your family.

“Your actions in attempting to clean the murder scene and your other deceptions about your involvement were callous and cowardly.”

At a previous court hearing, Pavlis described Ms Borchardt as a “nice person” and said “I still can’t understand how I did it”.

On Thursday, he was sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 12 years, as Justice Taylor admitted there was a “very real chance” Pavlis would die in jail.

“We are pleased with the result today and glad the court has recognised that Peter Pavlis is a cold-blooded murderer,” Ms Borchardt’s niece Carlie Smith told reporters outside court.

“All those years of hard work and dedication and that was the thanks that she received, to be buried in a grave early when she still had half a lifetime to live.”

Oscars introduce new popular film award

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is instituting sweeping changes to the Oscar broadcast as it tries to find ways to bolster ratings for the flagging telecast.

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In a message to its membership, the group’s president John Bailey and CEO Dawn Hudson said the broadcast will now include a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film.

The organisation’s initial announcement raised more questions than it answered.

The Academy later issued a statement clarifying eligibility concerns. Films can be nominated for both Academy Award for best picture and for outstanding achievement in popular film, with the new category to be introduced this coming year.

At one point in its history, Oscar voters routinely named blockbusters such as Titanic or Gladiator as the year’s best.

But recent best picture victors such as Moonlight, Spotlight, and the 2018 winner The Shape of Water have been firmly ensconced in the art-house world, whereas well-reviewed hit films such as Guardians of the Galaxy or Star Wars: The Force Awakens have only been recognised for their technical achievements.

“We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world,” Bailey and Hudson wrote in a note to members.

“The Board of Governors took this charge seriously.”

The Oscar broadcast has also been slagged as a tedious affair, filled with speeches, musical performances, and montages. To that end, the Academy’s board announced that future broadcasts will be three hours long.

The 2018 awards show, which clocked in at almost four hours, was the least-watched Oscars to date. Though it pulled in a sizeable 26.5 million viewers, the ratings were down 19 per cent compared to the previous year.

To accommodate a three-hour ceremony, select categories will be presented during commercial breaks. Winning moments will be edited and later aired during the broadcast.

The moves are likely to be controversial, particularly the decision not to televise certain awards and the creation of the popular film category.

In particular, it’s unclear if financially successful films will now get the cold shoulder from voters assessing the year’s best picture because blockbusters have been given their own award.