Wayne Prichard’s story
My name is Wayne Prichard, and this is my story about deceitful banking practices by Rural Bank and its owners Bendigo Bank.
I have outlined events that were suppressed following my signing of a deed of forbearance with the bank at mediation. I reluctantly signed the deed because of poor advice from my legal representative at the time stating. I was told that if I did not sign it, I would have been sold up immediately and my rights to resolve disputes would be lost.
At the mediation, there were discussions held between the mediator, my bank, and my advisor. I was not included in these discussions. After the mediation, I was threatened with enforcement action if I did not sign a supplementary deed because the initial deed expired. My advisor harassed me to act when I did not want to agree. I was concerned that I would lose my rights to deal with the bank’s dishonest practices.
The result of this, I thought, was a restriction of trade because I could not meet my financial obligations under the Deed. I could not protect my livestock during the drought and earn off-farm income. I suffered more than duress, my health has deteriorated which has now resulted in high blood pressure and depression.
I did not know that the Deed of Forbearance would prevent me from other issues being considered until my mother read about the bank’s intention to sell my property. The bank published it in a local newspaper on 29 May 2019 without notifying me. The bank and its lawyers must have notified the newspapers nation-wide, days if not a week at least prior to the notice being published.
The trigger to sell my farm was based on a false statement that I did not reply to a bank letter which it claimed to have sent to me. My consultant had tried to contact the bank’s senior credit manager, Malcolm Renney, on several occasions, but Renney denied any knowledge of this. This made a mockery of the bank’s responsibility to customers like me because it had to act honestly and in good faith.
The bank alleged that there was a deal on the table which I had agreed to. That was a lie. The bank did not comply with the law, and it led me to the position that I am in today.
The following evidence illustrates the bank’s dishonest practices, which damaged my businesses, my credibility, and my life.
I owned and operated a grazing enterprise located at Lot 1 Old Glenroy Station, Charters Towers, QLD 4820 (“Old Glenroy”) and a helicopter business, via Heliway Pty Ltd ACN 083 087 183 (“Heliway”), for which I had been operating for more than 30 years. I had more than 23,400 hours flying experience.
In 2012, I had loans with Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (“ANZ”) and my farm Old Glenroy was drought declared. ANZ placed me in Asset Management and ordered me to sell Old Glenroy, even though there had been no loan defaults nor any serviceability issues. Previously, I had just sold another property and paid a significant amount off my debt which left me in a comfortable position to carry on at Old Glenroy.
The issues arose when I did not sign a new Letter of Offer due to increasing security over and above what was required. The bank manager became disgruntled and without discussion my file was transferred to Asset Management and my interest rate increased to 11.8%. I continued making repayments at this rate until the refinance to Rural Bank on 27 May 2013. Therefore, I sought advice from Jennifer Wainwright, Financial Consultant, who introduced me to Elders Rural Bank Manager, Phil Lowe (“Lowe”), to refinance ANZ’s debt with Rural Bank.
After the refinance, I discovered that Jennifer Wainwright was not a qualified financial consultant, nor did she have the qualifications to submit the refinance with Rural Bank, but Lowe did not advise me of this.
On 17 April 2013, I received the bank’s letter of offer for the debt facilities $2.9M included in this facility is a Term Loan (Account Number 090187527) of $100,000 to rebuild my R22 Helicopter and an overdraft facility (Account Number 301862025) of $100,000 for working capital. This was of paramount importance to cashflow projections submitted, to Rural Bank, as part of the refinance.
On 27 April 2013, the day of settlement with ANZ, Lowe called me and advised that ANZ made a mistake with the payout and that we were $86,000 short for settlement. I did not have the additional funds and therefore had to borrow $90,000 from a work colleague.
I received the additional funds and settlement was rescheduled for the following week. A week later Lowe called me again and advised that ANZ made another mistake with its payout and that I was another $38,000 short. I told him that there must be a mistake and to hold up on settlement. I asked if there was anyone who could investigate the reason why the payout figure kept changing or should I contact the Ombudsman. Lowe told me not to involve anybody else and that he would ask another Rural Bank client to help me with the extra funds. Lowe stated, ‘we will get you out of ANZ and deal with the deficiencies down the track,’ I was shocked but accepted his offer.
On 20 May 2013, Lowe received an email from Carol Bawden, Securities Officer of Rural Bank, advising ANZ’s indicative payout of $2,992,402.66. Three days later, Lowe sent an email Carol Bawden regarding the updated ANZ payout 27 May 2013 circa $3.016M. I then received ANZ’s letter stating its payout was $3,017,178.42. This was $24,775.76 higher than advised a week earlier.
This was now a serious problem for me, when the Term Loan was required to fund the rebuild of an R22 Helicopter, but I could not access the funds because Lowe had used them to payout the ANZ loan. On 27 May 2013, when I drew down on my new loan, I was in default. This was a disaster because without being able to rebuild the helicopter, the business was not viable.
For 12 months, there were no other options other than to sell my six hundred breeders at half their value. For farmers, breeders are essential for future income, but in my case, the helicopter was my greatest priority. In March 2014, Lowe called suggesting I should mortgage my small property in Charters Towers to pay for the helicopter rebuild and give me some working capital. This property was unencumbered. I therefore had no choice but to agree.
On 1 April 2014, I contacted Rural Bank and Lowe to advise that I did not have sufficient funds to make the next interest payment. On 23 May 2014, Rural Bank surprisingly wrote to me and advised me of an offer to provide an increase to the Trading Limit Facility of $120,000. I thought this was the funds to rebuild the helicopter, but I soon found that it was funds for Lowe to keep my seasonal facility from falling into default before the upcoming review. Lowe asked me if I could provide a backdated invoice as evidence to credit to allow the facility increase. I did not accept the facility limit increase because it was dishonest. Then, my seasonal loan fell into default.
On 16 December 2014, I applied for the Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority (QRAA) loan. It required Rural Bank’s support. The QRAA loan term and interest rate was more affordable than Rural Bank. However, without explanation, Rural Bank did not support me, which was extraordinary. If I were supported, I could have either purchased a new aircraft or some breeding stock.
In February 2015, a friend of mine was interested in purchasing my property, Old Glenroy. At that time, I had few options, but Lowe suggested preparing a marketing plan before selling the property. We were suffering from the worst drought ever in this area and while the marketing plan was being prepared, my friend’s position changed, and the opportunity was lost.
On 4 May 2015, Rural Bank wrote to me and said my loan facilities were being managed by the Asset Management Unit. Prior to receiving this correspondence, I received a phone call from one of Rural Bank’s asset managers, Mark Currey, introducing himself and advising me that my file was now with asset management unit. This was 24 days after another Rural Bank client was informed by Lowe that my file was being transferred to asset management unit. The correspondence stated that the bank required the debt to be repaid in full by 31 March 2016, by way of selling Old Glenroy. The cash flow budget attached to the letter contained data not correlating to my business’ operation.
In July 2015, the Bank provided me with a deed of forbearance. Later that month Mark Currey contacted me and suggested a meeting to discuss some of the issues I raised with the bank and the Deed.
On 29 June 2015, assisted by Michael Clive of CBC Lawyers in Townsville, I met with Rural Bank’s Asset Managers, Mark Currey and Philip Mansfield to discuss the issues in the Deed of Forbearance. This was the first time I met the Rural Bank’s Asset Managers in person. The meeting lasted for about 2 hours. Before leaving the lawyer told me to sign the Deed, and, if not, the bank would sell me up.
On 29 July, I signed the deed under duress when Michael Clive said, ‘there is nothing you can do about it, they have a gun at your head’. I never imagined this threat would happen to me.
In July 2016, I wrote to the Financial Ombudsman Services (FOS) outlining my concerns and asked if it would review my case. I reported that in July 2015, Rural Bank required me to involuntarily sign a Deed of Forbearance. In August, FOS replied and refused to support my concerns as it stated there was no concrete evidence of the customer’s illegitimate pressure made by the financial services provider.
MEDIATION IN 2016
On 29 November 2016, Rural Bank required me to attend Farm Debt Mediation (FDM) in Brisbane. Mark Currey and Philip Manfield assisted by Martin Byres; Coors Chambers Westgarth attended for Rural Bank. John Maitland (Solicitor) and James Kewley (Barrister) attended with me, and the mediator was George Fox.
Fox started the meeting by questioning each of the attending parties to confirm they had exchanged relevant documents. I could recall that every lawyer at the meeting told Fox they provided the relevant documents, and then the two parties were required to move to separate rooms. Despite numerous requests I kept thinking Rural Bank’s Currey and Mansfield did not provide all the relevant documents.
The mediation lasted all day and was dominated by the Deed of Forbearance. The fact that I signed the deed did not give me a chance to ask Rural Bank’s experts about my current position. All the bank was focussed on was selling my property and repaying the escalated debt. The bank, its lawyer, and the mediator did not act in good faith, and I could not protect my rights.
On 12 November 2021, Old Glenroy was sold.
I suffered from Rural Bank and Bendigo Bank’s deceitful practices. They had:
- provided me with pure asset or ‘predatory’ loans without considering serviceability requirements,
- based serviceability on cash flow budgets not prepared by independent experts,
- knowingly used fictitious invoice to substantiate loan advance,
- breached the loan contracts by withholding documents pertinent to our rights,
- did not act in good faith or ethically with ANZ refinance and thereafter, for which caused material losses, and
- caused material financial losses and with irreparable reputational damage.
Due to the bank’s dishonest, I lost more than $19,093,020, as noted in my forensic accountant’s financial loss report of 26 May 2022.
It was clear that there were other parties involved in this misconduct other than the banks directors and their legal advisors. When attending Farm Debt Mediation, it was apparent the Queensland government (an owner of one of the other major banks) would have known about the defective arrangements. I believe the parties involved should have been removed from industry before my Brisbane meeting in November 2016.
I believe the Queensland government and Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Premier, should have known that banks and mediators did not always comply with the rules. Had the FDM meeting been filmed or recorded, it would have been evident all documents were not exchanged, and that the mediation had to be set aside. It was a scam.
However, following the Parliament House meeting in 2018, farmers discovered the 2004 Code was dishonest as it did not include ASIC Regulatory Guide 165 (2001) in clause 35.1(b). The leading banks, by omitting the ‘industry dispute standard or guideline from the code’, had a clear intent to commit a crime.
Ms Jacqueline Hey, Bendigo Bank’s Chair and her directors must have known about the deceitful 2004 Code. However, neither the directors nor general counsel had the good sense to rectify it.