November 20, 2018 / 12:49 AM / a month ago

Australia's Commonwealth Bank CEO says Narev told him to temper 'sense of justice'

SYDNEY, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Australia’s Commonwealth Bank chief executive told a banking misconduct inquiry on Tuesday that his predecessor had told him to curb his “sense of justice” when he suggested halting sales of potentially harmful insurance products.

Australia’s largest bank said last year it would have to refund about A$15 million ($10.9 million) to 64,000 customers after selling them unsuitable insurance when they obtained home loans or credit cards.

“‘Temper your sense of justice’,” the bank’s CEO, Matt Comyn, said predecessor Ian Narev had told him in response to his advocacy for ceasing selling the products in 2015.

“I was insufficiently persuasive,” added Comyn, the former head of retail banking who replaced Narev in April in the wake of a money-laundering scandal at the bank.

Narev could not immediately be reached for comment.

Comyn was testifying under oath for a second day at the powerful Royal Commission inquiry which has exposed widespread misconduct throughout Australia’s financial sector.

He is the first chief executive of a major bank to be grilled at quasi-judicial inquiry.

CBA Chairwoman Catherine Livingstone is also expected to face questioning from leading barrister Rowena Orr this week, followed by the heads of Westpac Banking Corp, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, National Australia Bank, and investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd .

The bank stopped selling the poor-value insurance products in March this year, a few days before the Royal Commission began examining misconduct in the consumer credit industry.

Comyn said there had been a number of other examples where the bank had put profits ahead of customers’ interests, including charging clients fees without providing them with any services.

On Monday he told the inquiry that senior compliance staff had felt vindicated when regulators accused the bank of thousands of breaches of anti-money laundering laws.

The inquiry continues. ($1 = 1.3710 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Paulina Duran; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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