After more than 100 witnesses, thousands of submissions and six rounds of hearings the royal commission has covered a lot of ground.
Here the Fairfax Media team present what you need to know across consumer lending, financial advice, superannuation, and insurance.
We also flag what the likely outcomes could be ahead of Commissioner Kenneth Hayne's interim report which is due with the government on September 30 and what action has already occured.
By Sarah Danckert
These hearings delved into misconduct in the consumer sector, including credit cards, car loans and junk add-on insurance.
CBA and Westpac were under the microscope for not assessing the ability of customers to repay debts before offering credit card limit increases.
CBA customer David Harris, a 30-year-old roofer, testified he was offered a credit card limit increase just days after he told the bank he was a problem gambler. At the minimum payment rate, his $22,000 debt would take 138 years to pay off.
The commission also examined ANZ's and Westpac’s car loans businesses.
Westpac’s continued use of controversial "flex commissions" – which allow car dealers to jack up interest rates paid by customers in return for commissions – was reviewed.
Nalini Thiruvangadam told how she had been sold a lemon by a car dealer on a high-interest loan that consumed more than 30 per cent of her income.
ANZ’s former car loan business Esanda was also shown to be riddled with misconduct, with brokers replacing customers' financial information with that of their guarantors to get loan approvals.
CBA executive Clive van Horen told the commission that CBA had sold credit card payment protection policies to 64,000 people who could not claim on the product.
This was often because they were students or unemployed, such as stay-at-home mum Irene Savidis.
CBA may face criminal charges over tardy reporting of credit card insurance breaches.
CBA, ANZ and Westpac may have breached the National Credit Act.
Flex commissions banned from November.
Unsolicited credit card increases banned in July and from January banks must assess whether customers can repay increased credit card limits.
CBA stopped selling product protection policies a week before the first round of hearings.
By Sarah Danckert
The charging of fees for no service became a flashpoint for the royal commission when AMP admitted it lied to the regulator 20 times about the scale of the problem. Chairman Catherine Brenner and chief executive Craig Meller immediately left.
Not to be outdone, CBA – dubbed the gold medallist of fees for no service by the commission – was revealed to have charged fees to thousands of customers who had died, while its executive Marianne Perkovic was accused of giving misleading evidence.
Despite years of revelations of misconduct in the financial planning sector, this section at the royal commission was brief.
NAB was quizzed on the rampant false witnessing of documents on behalf of 2520 NAB financial planning clients, as first revealed by Fairfax Media in May 2017.
Westpac came under fire when Scottish nurse Jacqueline McDowall told the commission she had lost most of her life savings due to inappropriate advice from a Westpac planner.
Among the smaller players, Dover Financial’s client protection policy was dubbed "Orwellian" by counsel assisting the commission Mark Costello, because it worked to protect Dover and not clients.
Dover’s founder Terry McMaster collapsed in the witness box while giving evidence, shortly after being asked about whether the policy document was misleading.
Another highlight of the hearings was Fair Work commissioner Donna McKenna’s evidence of the inappropriate advice she received, but did not implement, from celebrity planner Sam (Maxwell) Henderson.
AMP committed possible criminal offences.
CBA, which was considered potentially "too big to breach" under the law, announced after the hearings it would sell its wealth business, including its planning arms.
NAB and Wetspac could face civil breaches.
The banks could also be asked to beef up oversight of planners although all except Westpac are in the process of divesting their wealth arms.
Dover shut up shop and McMaster left the sector. ASIC is also suing Dover and McMaster. Henderson quit the industry, Henderson Maxwell recommended for criminal charges.
By Sarah Danckert
The superannuation hearings started with a bang when senior counsel assisting the commission Michael Hodge uttered his now famous line: “What happens when we leave these trustees alone in the dark with our money?”
The commission soon found out that what happens is quite scary, as NAB, CBA and AMP were all revealed to have put the interests of the bank over superannuation fund members.
At the same time the royal commission showed up lax regulation with the prudential regulator's view being that it does not regulate conduct in the sector and corporate watchdog felt that its powers are too limited.
NAB representatives - including chief customer officer Andrew Hagger, who resigned after the hearings - had a torrid four days in the witness box.
The bank was exposed for more than 100 potential criminal breaches of the Corporations Actwhen it allegedly failed to notify the regulator of significant breaches within the 10-day timeframe.
NAB was also shown to be trying to limit the amount of remediation it would pay to its superannuation customers without the input of the trustee NULIS.
CBA came under fire when it emerged it had failed to move 13,000 super funds to the no-frills MySuper accounts by the deadline – a potentially criminal offence.
By comparison, industry super was found to have reported far fewer instances of misconduct in the sector. AustralianSuper was grilled over its marketing spend on The New Daily and an anti-bank superannuation advertisement known as the "fox and the henhouse" ad.
Hostplus’ $230,000 spend at the Australian Open tennis tournament to woo employers to sign up their staff to the fund also grabbed attention.
CBA and NAB committed apparent criminal offences.
NAB chief customer officer Andrew Hagger left the bank this week.
Some advice fees and commissions could be banned and best interest-test for superannuation trustees act could be toughened.
Mortgages, farms and Indigenous communities
by Clancy Yeates
The hearings opened with explosive evidence of NAB branch managers accepting envelopes stuffed with cash as part of an alleged bribery ring where bankers sold loans based on fake documents to “smash” sales targets.
The banks’ use of benchmarks to determine whether customers could service their loans and then automatically approve applications was also in the spotlight.
ANZ Bank and Westpac, which recently agreed to pay a $35 million fine over its use of the household expenditure model or “HEM” benchmark, were quizzed over why banks did not test some living expenses listed by an applicant. Case studies, including ANZ customer Robert Regan, illustrated the impact an unserviceable mortgage can have.
CBA and its mortgage broker Aussie Home Loans - the largest in the country - came under fire for the lack of supervision of brokers and its reliance on other banks, such as Westpac and Suncorp, to identify mortgage fraud.
Banks' treatment of people in regional areas and Indigenous communities came under scrutiny in June and July.
In a lengthy grilling of ANZ, the commission explored long-running customer complaints about how customers fared after ANZ bought Landmark in 2010.
The commission heard of cases where the lender had been quick to take enforcement action on farmers struggling with their loans, or refused reasonable settlement offers from clients.
CBA-owned Bankwest was taken to task for failing to tell affected customers after it became aware of a banker who inflated property valuations.
Rabobank's policies for handling conflicts of interest involving bankers were scrutinised, as were its bonus payments, while NAB's policy of charging default interest rates to a drought-stricken farmer also came under the microscope.
This round of hearings exposed predatory behaviour in the funeral insurance sector. The Gold Coast-based Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund (ACBF) admitted signing up children for funeral cover was part of its sales process.
It was also revealed Let's Insure had experienced a spike in sales to Indigenous people in 2015 - which it blamed on rogue operators and poorly-designed incentives.
Banks may be forced to use other factors besides HEM and other benchmarks when approving loans. Automatic loan approvals will probably be scaled down.
Criminal proceedings against people linked to NAB’s alleged fraud ring issues have already begun.
Senior counsel assiting the commission Rowena Orr criticised the banks' treatment of farmers, with the harshest commentary reserved for ANZ which she had engaged in "misconduct".
Orr said the two funeral insurers ACBF and Let's Insure may have engaged in criminal breaches, as she suggested tighter rules on the sale of the product.
By Ruth Williams
The life and general insurance sectors were already under fire before they had to front the commission, following scandals involving outdated medical definitions, unfair dealings over claims and the pushing of life insurance products through aggressive cold-calling.
Cases explored included the harrowing story of a 26-year-old man with Down syndrome who was flogged an expensive life insurance policy after being cold-called by a Freedom Insurance sales agent in 2016.
Then came the story of how insurance giant TAL battled and then hired an investigator to invade the privacy of a mentally-ill nurse who had tried to claim income protection insurance - an ordeal that stretched over eight years.
Surveillance, the royal commission heard, had been used in a startling proportion of life insurance claims, especially those involving mental health – as many as 17.2 per cent of policyholders who lodged mental health claims at Suncorp between 2014 and 2016, and 9.3 per cent at Westpac.
CommInsure’s use of ill-defined and outdated medical definitions was scrutinised, with the commission examining the story of a woman with breast cancer whose surgery was not considered “radical” enough for the insurer.
And then there were the stories of natural disaster victims - the Hunter Valley family who were left to live inside a flood-ravaged home for two years, and the many people left homeless after the Wye River bushfires – who spoke of their treatment at the hands of Suncorp after trying to claim on their policies.
Listed life insurance company ClearView admitted to 303,000 criminal breaches of the law through its use of a pushy cold-call sales force.
Orr suggested CommInsure’s conduct over outdated medical definitions may have fallen short of community standards, along with TAL's targeting of the nurse and AMP's charging of insurance premiums to dead people.
Suncorp’s claims and dispute handling processes so bad they amounted to “systemic” problems.
Multiple insurers are likely to have engaged in misconduct over claims handling and to have breached their duty to act in utmost good faith.
Super fund trustees may be encouraged to provide more aid to members in claims disputes with insurers.
Sarah Danckert - Sarah is a business courts reporter based in Melbourne.
Clancy Yeates - Clancy Yeates writes on business specialising in financial services. Clancy is based in our Sydney newsroom.
Ruth Williams - Ruth Williams investigates corporate governance, crime, financial regulation and whistleblowers.
The Sydney Morning Herald
22 September 2018