AMP and MLC fined millions for historic violations

·2-min read

Two financial institutions have agreed to pay a total of $34 million in fines for historic breaches of customers' trust.

AMP Group is paying a $24m fine after its subsidiaries charged life insurance premiums and advice fees from the superannuation accounts of more than 2,000 dead customers from 2011 through 2019.

MLC will pay a $10m fine after failing to pay promised benefits to about 1000 income protection insurance customers for many years, until 2018.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission announced the separate Federal Court orders on Friday, the result of settlements between the insurance company and the regulator.

Both companies self-reported the violations and have paid remediation to affected customers. MLC has paid $11.8m and AMP $5.2m.

The court order said AMP's billing issues stemmed partly from "lack of interface between the product administration system and the systems on which member death notifications were recorded".

The decentralised nature in which complaints were handled within the group made it incapable of identifying this as a system-wide issue.

As a result AMP received more than $500,000 in insurance premiums from the superannuation accounts of dead customers over the years and over $100,000 in advice fees from the accounts of dead customers.

Federal Court Judge Lisa Anne Hespe described AMP's conduct as "very serious wrongful behaviour".

While the staff handling the death benefits and the complaints were relatively junior, the lack of oversight and awareness by senior management was part of the problem.

"The culture of the AMP Group assumed no systemic issues," she wrote.

"It resulted in a failure to have a process in place that was capable of identifying, investigating and remediating systemic issues for many years."

AMP Group general counsel David Cullen said the company apologised to all affected beneficiaries.

"We have made strong progress in becoming a customer-focused and purpose-led organisation and this historical matter is not reflective of the AMP we are today," he said.

"We have made significant changes to our systems and processes in recent years designed to prevent this from recurring."

MLC's violations seemed to stem from similar underlying problems.

ASIC deputy chair Sarah Court said the violations were the result of "poor governance, poor controls and poor systems, such as legacy IT systems".

"MLC customers deserve to have their insurance policies administered properly," she said.

One of the most serious violations involved 119 customers who weren't paid a total of $2m in promised benefits after they had undertaken approved rehabilitation programs following injury or disability.

MLC's definition of severe rheumatoid arthritis also wasn't updated to keep up with the current standards, while other customers weren't properly mailed their policy statements.

"ASIC will continue to take action against insurers who aren't acting in accordance with their duty of utmost good faith towards their customers," Ms Court said.

An MLC spokesman said the insurer did not have an immediate comment.