Westpac was on Wednesday, it will be the turn of NAB and ANZ next Wednesday to feel the wrath of shareholder displease over the revelations at the Hayne royal commission.
The no vote for Westpac was more than 64%, that for the ANZ is put at more than 50%, while the NAB’s strike vote could be as high as 70% according to early estimates of proxies flowing into both banks ahead of the meetings.
Investors were again blase about the vote and the punishment.
ANZ shares rose 1.2% to $25.49, NAB closed 0.9% higher at $24.10, the Commonwealth edged up 0.1% to $70.18 and Westpac slid 0.1% to $25.44.
By the time we reach the weekend before Christmas, we will have seen shareholders in three of the country’s blue-chip companies punishing boards in a way never seen before – by rejecting their remuneration reports and putting them on a course to spill their boards if it is repeated in 2019.
The reason is easy to understand – shareholders finally have had a chance to react to the string of rotten examples of malfeasance, incompetence and worst from the banks at the Hayne Royal Commission.
The sense of betrayal is palpable. The very people who were supposed to be looking after our money and doing the right thing and playing by the book – as they continually urge us to do – were in reality asleep, taking the pay and fees, dudding us and hoping they would not be caught, allowing money laundering on an industrial scale to occur, rejecting insurance claims out of hand, gouging fees and charges on a scale that was grand theft, and trying hard not to repay those stolen funds until sprung by the commission.
IOOF, AMP, Freedom Insurance Group, smaller, privately owned insurers in funeral benefits and wealth protection (laughable) and the big four banks all guilty.
For IOOF, AMP, and Freedom, the very survival of the companies is at stake. AMP holds its shareholder meeting around next May (it balances at the end of this month). That will be as fierce as Westpac’s was this week and ANZ and NAB’s will be next week. The Commonwealth’s big meeting is not for 11 months.
And that also includes regulators such as ASIC and APRA who let the banks and insurance companies get away with multiple transgressions without any substantive punishment in some cases and no punishment at all in others.
There will be a re-run of this when the final report from Commissioner Hayne is delivered to the government next February, then handed down.
Westpac set an unwanted record for corporate Australia – a stunning vote of no confidence in the bank board and management at a level we have seldom seen in Australia.
But the 64.16% vote against is not only the largest ’no votes against any company’s remuneration report since the 66% vote against Telstra in 2007 when it was run by controversial CEO, Sol Trujillo.
It was a dramatic demonstration of the depth of feeling shareholders have against the bank and banks in general as a result of the disclosures from the royal commission. And if you think about it it was also a repudiation of the opposition to the bank inquiry by successive prime Ministers in Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison and by senior ministers such as Kelly O’Dwyer and current treasurer, Josh Frydenburg.