AMP Limited has received a pointed message from Royal Commissioner, Kenneth Hayne QC that he may be forced to adverse conclusions over evidence that suggests AMP may have influenced or sought to influence the contents of a supposedly independent report handed to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
The Commissioner made his position clear after hearing a day of evidence from AMP in which it was suggested that the AMP Board may have played a role in amending a report compiled by law firm Clayton Utz and which was then presented to ASIC on the basis that it was an independent assessment.
The report represented a legal assessment by Clayton Utz of the status of AMP’s approach to orphan clients and its buyer of last resort (BOLR) pool and the fact that the company had been maintaining a policy of maintaining fees for up to 30 days after a client became “orphaned”.
Counsel assisting the Royal Commission, Michael Hodge QC had earlier pointed to e-mails and other documents associated with the Clayton Utz report which suggested substantial amendments had been in liaison between AMP and the law firm, including that AMP chief executive, Craig Meller, had been unaware of the legal breaches around orphan clients.
Later, AMP’s counsel, Philip Crutchfield QC sought to draw a distinction between the AMP board dealing with the actual report and the legal advice attaching to the report.
Wrapping up the day’s hearing, and referring to the answers given by AMP’s group executive, advice, Jack Regan, Commissioner Hayne cautioned AMP.
“In view of the evidence given by Mr Regan, there may be some question about what conclusions, if any, I may reach about the extent to which senior management or others associated with AMP sought to influence or did influence content of the report by Clayton Utz apparently submitted to ASIC as an independent report,” he said.
“It is a matter for AMP and its advisers whether it seeks to have some opportunity to provide any material which goes beyond the evidence given by 20 Mr Regan about that matter, the documents that were tendered in relation to it.”