Beleaguered financial services company AMP has opposed claims that the investigation conducted for its board by Clayton Utz was not independent and has said that there weren’t as many emails exchanged between it and the top law firm as was claimed before.
AMP said that under Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) regulations, “the Clayton Utz report could never have [not] been considered as independent.” The report was “uncompromisingly direct” in tackling the issues, it said.
The company also said that the Clayton Utz report has been mischaracterised.
“The Clayton Utz Report notes on its face that the board of AMP appointed Clayton Utz to conduct an investigation independent of AMP’s Advice business. ASIC also knew that Clayton Utz was a member of AMP’s external legal panel and was acting for AMP in relation to ASIC’s investigation of the fees for no service issues,” it said.
“There is nothing about the independence of the Clayton Utz report that required disclosure. Further, Clayton Utz did not make any changes to the report as a result of communications with AMP which Clayton Utz did not agree with, and Clayton Utz carefully verified the accuracy of the statements in the report,” AMP added.
Clayton Utz has stood by its report on AMP.
In a defence filing in the NSW Supreme Court last week for the shareholder class action led by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, AMP said it did not fail in its obligations to disclose information regarding collecting fees for no service. The conduct affected only 3,500 customers and cost them less than $600,000, which meant it did not require disclosure to the market. AMP faces several class actions as a result of the scandal.
AMP also said the number of emails it exchanged with Clayton Utz was “significantly overstated.” Of the total mentioned by Ken Hayne, counsel assisting the Royal Commissioner, it included several calendar invitations, as well as acceptances and rejections, AMP said. Attachments were counted as separate emails, while many emails were also about interviews and updates.
It was earlier asserted in the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry that about 700 emails were exchanged between AMP and Clayton Utz partner Nicholas Mavrakis over the law firm’s report.
AMP reiterated that it admitted to certain misrepresentations it had made to ASIC and notified the commission of those matters in October 2017 when it provided the Clayton Utz report.
“Those misrepresentations did not have the effect of misleading ASIC in any material way in respect of the practice of charging fees for no service,” it said.
ASIC has been conducting a detailed investigation into the matters, which began well in advanced of the Royal Commission. ASIC had a detailed understanding of the practice and had known the matters raised at the Royal Commission in respect to the practices, it said.
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