NAB could face a $100 million class action over excess superannuation fees levied by its wealth arm following evidence unearthed at last year’s financial services royal commission.
William Roberts Lawyers is inviting MLC Super fund customers to sign up to the no-win, no-fee action, which is backed by litigation funder IMF Bentham and will seek compensation plus interest for the excess fees.
The action will allege that, from when MLC changed the structure of its super funds on July 1, 2016, NAB-owned super fund trustee NULIS breached its best-interest obligations to members by agreeing to levy excess fees from their accounts to pay commissions and other fees to advisers.
Bill Petrovski, Principal of William Roberts Lawyers, would not say how many MLC Super members had signed up but pointed to Kenneth Hayne’s final royal commission report, which indicated about 188,000 people were affected.
The report said the NULIS board considered a management paper that discussed stopping the grandfathered commissions or setting up alternative adviser remuneration arrangements, but cited cost and effort in ultimately recommending they continue.
“Superannuation trustees have an obligation to act in the best interest of their members,” Mr Petrovski said.
“In charging fees to members in order to pay these adviser commissions, the class action will allege that the trustee fell short of this obligation.”
William Roberts Lawyers, which last week filed proceedings in a superannuation fee class action against Suncorp, expects to file its latest action within weeks in a to-be-determined court.
Mr Petrovski said the firm had been speaking with affected people for some time before making the action public on Wednesday.
“One of the reasons it (the action) is so clear is that we had information available to us … that absent the royal commission we wouldn’t have,” Mr Petrovski said.
The Future of Financial Advice Reforms that came into effect on July 1, 2013, banned conflicted remuneration for advisers, with only certain payments from before that date exempted under so-called “grandfathering provisions”.
MLC has already been hit by one class action following the financial services royal commission, with proceedings launched last year alleging thousands of customers were sold worthless credit card insurance.
Law firm Slater and Gordon was last month given permission to widen the action to include people who were sold personal loan insurance.
“We will consider carefully any claims that may be brought against NULIS by IMF Bentham and William Roberts Lawyers,” NAB said in a statement on Wednesday.