Australian watchdog takes AMP to court over fees

Pedro Gonçalves
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Australian watchdog takes AMP to court over fees

The Australian corporate regulator ASIC is  has taken AMP and blue-chip law firm Clayton Utz to court seeking access to interview notes related to its fee-for-no-service investigation.

Clayton Utz has cited AMP's legal professional privilege to keep hold of the documents and previously refused to comply with requests to hand them over, but a court order may well force its hand.

AMP is facing accusations of charging customers fees for services that they were not receiving, which was a common trait among major Australian lenders, particularly when involving vertically integrated product structures. ASIC has also accused AMP of misleading its customers with a series of incorrect statements that led them on the wrong path.

ASIC is seeking a court declaration that the documents are not subject to privilege, or that privilege has been waived.

The banking royal commission heard that AMP knowingly charged thousands of customers for services it did not provide and then repeatedly misled ASIC by covering up the deliberate nature of its practices.

The evidence triggered the resignations of AMP chief executive Craig Meller and chairman Catherine Brenner, and wiped AMP's share price.

AMP expects it will complete its targeted remediation program to refund customers charged fees for services they did not receive in three years' time and cost the company A$778m. AMP expects its compensation over that issue and also for inappropriate advice to top A$440m.

This marks an increase in ASIC's attempts to unravel what it believes are various policies and management decisions that have undermined trust in the financial sector. Public confidence in the financial industry has dropped heavily since the initial Royal Commission inquiry earlier this year.

The case will not be heard by the Federal Court until February 2019.