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There are serious questions on how the Australian Securities

03:13, 24/6/2013 .. 0 comments .. Link

Amid the fracas of the global financial crisis, 100 of Commonwealth Bank's top financial planners flew to Auckland for an annual three-day bash in honour of the bank's biggest earners, the so-called ''diamond alliance''. Donning big hair and jewellery, they bopped and drank the night away at a 1980s solid-gold-inspired fancy dress party.

It was Tuesday, October 28, 2008, and financial markets were looking ragged. Lehman Brothers had collapsed the month before and tensions were high as the elite of CBA's financial planners gathered to pick up awards and trophies for a job well done at Auckland's five-star Sky City Grand Hotel.

Yet, charging their champagne glasses as awards were handed out to the top 12 planners, including Don Nguyen, a pall hung over the evening as they tried to forget CBA's bombshell news the previous day that it had frozen seven CBA-owned Colonial First State mortgage funds valued at $3.3 billion.

After spending the day sailing around the harbour in Americas Cup boats while their mobile phones ran hot from panicked investors trying to get answers, Nguyen and his fellow planners tried to focus on the night's events.

One victim, Jan Braund, a retiree, received a call from Nguyen earlier in the day advising her to ''switch all monies out of existing instruments into the bank's wholesale cash fund''.

Nguyen rang other clients including an 85-year-old man who had put most of his savings in the fund. It was for a medical emergency. His wife was housebound but was described in the financial needs analysis document as in ''good health''.

Nguyen's advice to them was to put in a redemption request straight away. The advice was too late. The funds had been frozen. And with this, his chance to churn them into several new portfolios with new upfront fees for the bank and trailing commissions for planners like himself was gone.

Advisers were given lists of clients on the day who had been affected and told to hose down their fears. Nguyen hit the phone hard.

The freezing of the funds was a disaster for many of the 61,000 investors. More than four years later, some are still waiting to get their final capital allocation back.

CBA said some investors received earlier payments as a result of hardship applications.

In the months before October 2008, numerous bank customers had been persuaded to switch from the safety of term deposits to these funds with higher rates, which gave the financial planner and the bank a nice trailing commission that they didn't get from a humble term deposit sold by a teller over the counter at some suburban branch across Australia.

It was part of a last ditch effort by planners to reach their sales targets and boost their funds under management so that they could earn their June 30, 2008, bonus - and qualify for the international three-day conference.

This week, as more details have emerged of the conduct of CBA's planning division between 2005 and 2010 and the corporate regulator's tardy investigation, there is now a Senate inquiry into the regulator and, ominously, ''other matters''.

There are serious questions on how the Australian Securities and Investments Commission handled the tip-off from a group of bank insiders in October 2008 into allegedly corrupt conduct. The whistleblowers urged that there was some urgency in securing the files of Nguyen as they were being ''cleaned up'' and that the issue had much broader implications than one dodgy planner. ASIC finally investigated in March 2010.

CBA has since compensated 1127 clients of Nguyen and other planners who gave ''inappropriate advice'', paying out $49.4 million.

Nguyen controlled up to $300 million of client money and the bank has paid out 200 of his clients a total of $23 million. All up ASIC has banned seven CBA planners, who are believed to have represented thousands of clients and managed hundreds of millions of dollars of their money.

CBA has also undertaken to overhaul its systems, including improving compliance standards.

A spokeswoman for CBA said the bank had worked hard over the past three years improving the business. ''Today, our financial planning business is built on a rigorous compliance and risk-management framework which includes prompt investigation of issues, the most comprehensive staff training program in the industry, changes in remuneration, more rigorous systems and processes, better document management and enforcement of higher standards by new management.''

Several of the managers involved have moved on, and now hold senior jobs at other institutions with similar sales-based type cultures. Some have threatened legal action.

The pending Senate inquiry is believed to have put the other banks into damage control as they look at the activities of their own financial planning arms before the financial crisis. CBA said: ''It is unfortunate that a sales-based culture was not uncommon across the industry at that time.''

It has prompted some class-action law firms to investigate whether the CBA scandal is the tip of an industry-wide iceberg.

Senator John Williams said if the Coalition took government in September the inquiry would complement the financial services inquiry, nicknamed the son of Wallis inquiry after the Wallis banking inquiry of the late 1990s. ''We are looking at the regulation of ASIC and how it performs its duties and this will complement Joe Hockey's inquiry,'' he said.

Meanwhile, the industry is readying itself for a new regulatory regime on July 1, under the Future of Financial Advice, which is designed to clean up the industry and make fees more transparent. CBA believes FOFA will ''ensure that advice customers receive from financial advisers is in their best interests''.

But not everyone is confident that it will result in dramatic change. Whistleblower Jeff Morris, who worked as a financial planner at CBA before leaving in February this year, believes FOFA is a step in the right direction but it doesn't go far enough. ''The elephant in the room is vertical integration. FOFA does nothing to address this. By encouraging consolidation in the industry it has probably added to the problem.''

Justin Brand, from non-aligned financial advisory Arc Financial Consulting, says the vertically integrated model is inherently conflicted. ''What you have is product manufacturers controlling advice channels, setting product targets and ultimately creating a group product 'sales is everything' culture, as recently exposed,'' he said.

It was the ''sales at all costs'' culture insiders and former staff close to the situation believe was the cause of the problem at CBA. They warn that FOFA will deal with hidden fees and disclosure but it won't change the quest to drive sales.

Geoff Derrick, national assistant secretary at the Finance Sector Union, said FOFA was a step forward but continuing dependence on commission-based remuneration and sales targets meant banking culture remains ''a numbers game''.

''The problem is that some people in the industry have lost their moral compass. What we are particularly worried about is the conflict between what is in the best interests of the banks' bottom lines and what is in the best interests of customers.''
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who met Angel through the Rotary Club of Moorpark Morning

03:14, 21/6/2013 .. 0 comments .. Link

I note that Mr. Truss has steered away from upload speeds because the upload speeds are likely to be woeful at around 5mbps under the Coalitions FTTN plan. Upload speeds are important, working from home just as if you were at work will become the norm. Teleconferencing from home with your doctor or work colleagues will be the norm.

Usage of cloud technology will be the norm. People will be able to enjoy the lifestyle of living in regional cities whilst maintaining their jobs in the major cities. All this is under threat with FTTN technology.

Mr Truss continues to spread lies over the NBN; lies like the NBN would cost $90 billion. The facts are NBN Co's equity is appropriated each year and then drawn down as required. In the current financial year, equity requirements were less than anticipated, reflecting the reforecast rollout schedule. The Budget reconfirms the total government equity contributions to NBN Co will be up to $30.4 billion to build the state of the art FTTH network. This compares with the $29.5 billion that the Coalition intends to borrow to build an inadequate network that is already obsolete. The overall savings are minimal to the taxpayer but the ongoing expense of maintaining the ageing copper network which reached its used by date long ago is significant. 60,000 plus cabinets need to be built. That is 60,000 potential breaking points in the network.

Mr. Truss needs to come clean and tell the residents of Wide Bay that the Coalition plans to build 60,000+ of the ugliest node cabinets approximately 2km apart in every street in Australia. Any less and you won’t get the speeds, remember distance from the node matters, 1.5km from the node and you will get much slower speed than someone 400metres from the node. The cabinets will hook state of the art fibre cabling to the old degraded copper network that currently causes us no end of trouble every time we experience bad weather. Imagine one of these out front of your house (see the node cabinet at the end of this article).

Mr. Truss claims that not a single Wide Bay household is likely to be connected to the NBN cable until well after 2016. That is simply not true; NBN Co expects to start switching on facilities in Kandanga and Kilkivan in stages from late 2014.

Mr Truss makes much of the finish date for the NBN rollout of 2021 whilst saying nothing about the finish date for the Coalition of 2019. They boast a saving of two years to deliver an infinitely slower and inferior network that will be expensive to run and obsolete before it’s even completed. Coalition cost for outdated obsolete technology $29.5 billion versus Labor state of the art broadband $30.4 billion.  

The reality is the Coalition will create the great digital divide where some communities, those where Labor’s FTTH has been rolled out, who will have access to 1,000mbps download and upload capability. Where other communities, like Noosa and Maryborough, if the Coalition win office will be lucky to have 40 – 70ish download only capability.

There will be no easy fix once upwards of 60,000 cabinets have been deployed, we will be stuck with a lemon that we will pay dearly for in decades to come.

60,000 nodes X 8 batteries that have to be replaced every year. It takes about twice the amount of power to run a FTTN system than it does a FTTH. Greenhouse gas emissions matter in a world that’s trying to reduce carbon emissions. In the UK nodes are vandalised regularly, batteries stolen, they get sprayed with graffiti, hit by cars, residents refuse to have them outside their houses causing delays and fights with neighbours and councils. I don’t think councils are really aware of the potential problems.

Roughly a dozen boxes of science fiction toys are stacked nearly to the ceiling in Brian Angel’s garage.

“ Each toy is individually wrapped,” he said. “I did this when the kids were little to keep them safe. Now that they’re a little older, they’re going to come out slowly but surely.”

The 39-year-old Moorpark resident is a tried-and-true Trekkie, a Star Trek super fan whose love runs deep for the multi-billion dollar sci-fi franchise created by Gene Roddenberry in 1964.

“It’s fun to escape what’s going on in your actual life for a moment and imagine yourself in these cool scenarios,” said Angel, who works in marketing. “I enjoy watching that struggle between good and evil.”

The avid collector was introduced to the series at age 7 when his grandfather took him on a tour of Paramount studios in Hollywood where the television series was filmed.

His passion for the franchise was solidified in 1982 when he saw “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” a film in which the crew members of the USS Enterprise face off against Khan Noonien Singh, a genetically-engineered tyrant played by Ricardo Montalban.

The infamous villain escapes from a 15-year exile to exact revenge on James Kirk, played by William Shatner. “I could watch that movie every day,” Angel said. “And sometimes, I go through phases where I do.”

Although he does not have one favorite character, Angel said he enjoys the relationship between Kirk and his half-Vulcan officer, Spock.

“Kirk is the impulsive, gunslinging guy who does everything by instinct and Spock is the logical, calculate-every-move character,” Angel said. “They’re so different yet they’re still able to find the common ground of friendship.”

Angel, who described himself as a “ geek,” has found common ground with other Star Trek fans. He and Doug Ridley, his friend of 10 years, are both fans of the series.

“He knows more lines and quotes from those movies than anyone I know,” said Ridley, who met Angel through the Rotary Club of Moorpark Morning, where they both served as president. “He doesn’t know it yet, but his next present from me is going to be a pizza cutter in the shape of the Enterprise.”

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