Banking regulator chief rewarded for failing to check bank greed

Australian Prudential Regulation Authority chair Wayne Byres.

The Big Money Club clearly lives by its own perverse rules.

An individual can go to jail for simply stealing a pack of chips — especially if you are Aboriginal. But when bankers cheat customers out of millions of dollars, they barely get a fine.

So I guess we shouldn't be surprised by the news that federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has reappointed Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) chair Wayne Byres for another five-year term — despite APRA having clearly failed in its job of regulating the banks.

We know APRA failed because the banking royal commission interim report released on September 28 condemned the bank regulators for allowing banks to blatantly get away with “the pursuit of short-term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty”.

The report noted: "When misconduct was revealed it either went unpunished or the consequences did not match the seriousness of what had been done. The conduct regulator [Australian Securities and Investment Commission] rarely went to court to seek public denunciation and punishment misconduct. The prudential regulator, APRA, never went to court..."

The royal commission's next report is expected to go into more detail on the failure of the regulators.

Yet Scott Morrison’s federal Coalition government has re-appointed Byres and given APRA an extra $58 million.

This is because, from the point of view of the members of the Big Money Club, APRA and ASIC were doing the right thing.

Writing in the Australian Financial Review on November 4, senior reporter John Kehoe praised the extension of Byre's appointment, who he said “has done a good job.”

In dealing with blatant bank corruption, Kehoe said “APRA has preferred a quieter, behind-the-scenes coaxing, such as more intense supervision of the offending institution, giving bank chief risk officers more power, requesting a bank hire extra risk staff or forcing an institution to hold more capital."

This is a good thing, argues Kehoe, as “the risk in APRA being more prosecutorial is that it could discourage financiers from raising red flags with the regulator.”

So when a bank does the robbing, a quiet chat in the club is the best solution.

And if any punishment is necessary, it is best applied with a feather.

It's one set of laws for the rich and another for the rest of us.

Here at Green Left Weekly, we don’t just believe that this is unacceptable — we want to help build a movement that can get rid of this system of blatant corporate thievery.

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