Gerard O’Grady Story
My name is Gerard O’Grady. I would like to share my bad experiences with my bank, which I should not have trusted for ages now.
In partnership with my parents, I ran a very profitable cattle farm. I was also involved in land development, which, if Bendigo Bank had allowed me to complete, would also have been very profitable. Elders Rural Bank, which first provided finance to my beef cattle farm in 2002, was aware of the business I ran, both cattle farming and land development.
In April 2007, I took five-year loans out with Elders Rural Bank (‘Elders bank’) to refinance the Robo loan and to purchase Burkes land. Elders bank initially offered me three loans with variable interest rates and conditions. The security was taken in the form of the first registered mortgage over all Livestock along with property being purchased and exiting real property assets held by me.
Among other special conditions, I was required to market and sell projected land sales, within 12 months of drawdown, and such proceeds to be applied to reduce permanent term loans. I was not advised to seek independent legal advice at the time of signing.
In June 2008, Elders bank offered me three additional loans. Eight months later, in February 2009, it reduced the interest rate for Term Facility 4 and required additional security. It also offered me the fifth facility of $2.5M with variable interest rates, in relation to the restructuring of existing terms and for the purchase of “Maloney”.
On 17 August 2009, Elders bank sold its shareholding to Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, and it became known as Rural Bank.
Up until 2009, I purchased several properties for their development potential; there were variations made to the original loan agreement. Barry O’Neill (local Elders Bank’s Manager) told me to put my home up as security which my parents had a deed over, he said that it could not be mortgaged. He said we would only need it as security for a short time, and I did trust him. I did not know, at that time, this was predatory lending.
In mid-2009, Barry O’Neil, Ross Buzolich (my account), and I met up to work through potential tax issues. O’Neil, on more than one occasion, described me as his best performer. In early November we decided to ask Elders Rural Bank if they would consider releasing seventy-one acres of the Burks land security valued at $480,000 to put into my self-managed super fund. In late November 2009 Elders Rural Bank released the security over the seventy-one acres.
In March 2010, I had conversations with O’Neil in relation to buying 5 acres for $250,000. O’Neill asked me to see if the vendor would draw out settlement until June 2010 and made no indication that funding would be troublesome. On this advisement, I paid a $25,000 deposit in March 2010. However, Elders then failed to provide funding for settlement. Not only did I lose $25,000 plus interest for 6 months, but I was also forced to rescind the contract. Further, the 5 acres’ market value was likely to be around $2M at the time of this report.
In March 2010, I wanted to purchase 30 acres at Lumsdens Lane and asked O’Neil to arrange the financing. The deal ultimately fell through due to the Elders’ conduct. The market value of the 30 acres of land that I intended to purchase for $340,000 is likely to be around $2.7M at the time of this report.
In May 2010, I understood that Elders was no longer interested in funding development opportunities. Further, Elders removed my authorisation to increase livestock numbers, thus precluding me from generating profits from livestock operations, even though the livestock farm had generated profits over the 2008 and 2009 financial years.
In June 2010, O’Neil told me there was a problem with the head office. I was in complete shock. I took it a pond myself to get a new valuation from a valuer who was on the Rural Bank’s panel. The new valuation came up with a further $800.000 worth of value, O’Neil presented the new valuation to Rural Bank, but the bank did not accept it because they did not ask for it.
O’Neil put me in touch with Bruce Keeley (the broker). O’Neil and I worked with Bruce to try to get me refinanced. Firstly, both O’Neil and Bruce pleaded with the Bank to reconsider their actions. Bruce told Rural Bank that what Rural Bank was doing to me was the most disturbing thing he has seen in his 40 years in banking. Bruce managed to find two parties interested in refinancing me if Rural Bank would make sure my lease payments were up to date. He asked Rural Bank for $40,000 to get the lease payments up to date, but they refused.
Rural Bank refused to pay my monthly bills they controlled all my cattle sales. O’Neil informed me that the head office was giving him a hard time because he did not have the stock mortgage up to date. O’Neil informed me that he was requested not to contact me.
On 27 July 2010, Advance Home & Business Loans had the intention to refinance my Elders’ facilities. By then, Elders had not paid me lease payments that were due in June 2010 and may not pay them in the future, which was greatly harming the refinance process. As a result, the refinance was not successful due to Elders refusing to pay the equipment and property leases.
Rural Bank was making all sorts of unreasonable demands regarding the sale of cattle and my properties, the bank was threatening to sell my parents’ home and bankrupt them and myself.
On 27 January 2011, I received Elders’ Default Notice, demanding payment of $3.1M within 7 days.
On 3 February 2011, I found that the Deed of Agreement, dated 22 May 2002 between Laurence, Doreen, and Gerard (‘the 2002 Deed’), stated that the land, which had the dwelling, could not be used for mortgage purposes. Elders was aware of the 2002 Deed and knowingly caused me to breach the 2002 Deed, by mortgaging the land.
In May 2011, Rural Bank took my cattle and sold them undervalued, I did not sign any paperwork concerning the movement of my cattle.
On 17 April 2012, Elders emailed me in relation to the sale of Burkes and other properties on the market, along with reaffirming the bank’s rights to take possession of all properties. as a result of Elders’ unrelenting pressure, Laurence and Doreen feared we would lose our home.
On 27 August 2012, I received a notice to attend Farm Debt Mediation, negotiating the matter with Elders. No agreement was reached at the Farm Debt Mediation. I managed to find some backers we tried to do a debt reduction deal; the Bank could not give us an answer on that day, therefore we agreed to attend another Farm Debt Mediation in September.
On 13 February 2013, the bank’s lawyers issued a Notice of Demand pertinent to Term Loan Facility 4 and Trading Facility 2.
On 21 February 2013, I received a Notice of Demand & Intention to Exercise Power of Sale, pertinent to the Elders debt of approximately $3.4M, for Term Loan Facilities 2, 3, and 5. The 5 properties that were subjected to the mortgagee’s power of sale were valued, and commissioned by Elders, totalled approximately $2.3M and $2.5M on Forced Sale and Controlled Sale basis respectively. The valuation included groundwater licenses and irrigation plant.
On 17 April 2013, I received an email confirmation from Elders’ Counsel that my equipment would be removed prior to the auction as the chattels did not form part of bank security. The next day, the properties were sold at auction for approximate $1.8M. The value achieved was significantly under fair market value, as evidenced by the valuation only 2 months ago, along with the fact the Properties had notable development potential. Prior to the sale, Elders did not allow me to pick up the hay, irrigator, or silage that were situated on one of the five properties and were not part of bank security. Rural Bank colluded with South Rural Water and the new owners of my land to transfer my water licences. Rural Bank did not have a right to my water because they never had a mortgage over my water. I also had some silage and a centre pivot irrigator which Rural Bank gave to the new owner of my land.
I filed a series of complaints to banking regulators, to FOS and ASIC in 2013; to the Farm Foreclosure – Bank Engineering Defaults inquiry in 2015; the Lending to Primary Production Customers inquiry in 2017; to the Banking Royal Commission in 2018 and to AFCA in 2019; however, I did not receive any responses yet.
On 25 March 2013, I filed a complaint with the Financial Services Ombudsman (FOS). Whilst my complaint was lodged with FOS, Elders still sold my properties at auction for $1.8M, which was significantly under fair market value, as evidenced by the valuation only 2 months preceding, along with the fact the Properties had notable development potential.
On 18 June 2013, FOS wrote to my counsel advising that the complaint was not within FOS’ terms of reference except for whether Elders should have paid Gerard Goods & Services Tax (GST) on the sale of cattle; whether Elders breached Gerard’s privacy; whether the pivot irrigator is a fixture of a fitting; and whether Elders provided Gerard with sufficient time to remove his personal items from the security properties. However, FOS did not resolve any of these issues.
One month later, FOS sent me a letter stating that their involvement in the dispute is unwarranted and that they would not continue with any investigation.
On 9 January 2015, Elders sent me a letter offering a Settlement. At that time, Elders did not make any contact with Laurence or Doreen, even though the bank knew that they were both elderly, Doreen had recently had open heart surgery, they were farmers, not highly educated, had very little banking knowledge, were not advised to seek independent legal advice nor were they parties in the FOS complaint.
We signed the Settlement Letter without knowing it had fully released Elders from any responsibilities. The Settlement Letter claimed Elders would accept $200,000 to release the Home Dwelling as a full and final settlement. Elders claimed that this left us with an approximate $2.1M shortfall.
On 2 January 2016, I received Elders Statements confirming a write-off, per Settlement Letter, of approximate $835,000. However, in the Settlement Letter, Elders advised the write-off was approximate $2.1M.
In December 2015 and January 2016, my counsel filed a Statement of Claim with Elders for approximate $6.8M, as per Mr. Ross Buzolich loss calculations.
In 2020/2021, I filed proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria at Melbourne against Elders Lenahan Farms and Collins.
As of the time of this report, I am still in dispute with Elders, with no assets.
In summary, Elders bank caused me a financial disadvantage by doing the following:
- failed to allow us to remove the irrigator and silage from the Properties;
- transferred Water Licences issued by Southern Rural Water Authority for no monetary consideration, which caused us a loss of $357,500;
- sold our properties to obtain a financial advantage dishonestly
- provided predatory loans without considering serviceability;
- created debt facility breach, along with other breaches of other third-party contracts, by way of not being a prudent and diligent lender nor acting in good faith;
- bullied, intimidated, and put undue pressure on us;
- breached the loan contracts by withholding documents pertinent to our rights;
- did not act in good faith or ethically, which caused material losses in lost trading, and under sale of assets;
- caused material financial losses and irreparable reputational damage.
I contacted a research group that has been supporting small businesses and farmers who were victims of the banks. We have obtained evidence that my bank breached several clauses in the 2004 Code, including:
- not acting fairly and reasonably towards us in a consistent and ethical manner (Clause 2.2)
- not complying with all relevant laws relating to banking services (Clause 3.1)
- not ensuring its staff (and its authorised representatives) are trained so that they have adequate knowledge of the provisions of this Code (Clause 7(b))
- not trying to help us overcome our financial difficulties (clause 25.1)
- not applying with the internal process for handling our disputes free of charge (Clause 35.1(a))
- not meeting the standards set out in Australian Standard AS4269-1995 or any other industry dispute standard or guideline which ASIC declares to apply to this Code ((Clause 35.1(b))
- not adhering to the timeframes specified in clause 35 ((Clause 35.1(c));
- not providing us with written reasons for its decision on a dispute ((Clause 35.1(d))
- not providing us with information about its internal process for dealing with a dispute at the time the dispute arises, and any external process (clause 37(a)(b))
I filed complaints with FOS, AFCA, and recently with the bank’s directors, ASIC, and APRA with the evidence that the bank breached the Code of Banking Practice, the AS 4269-1995 Standard, ASIC Regulatory Guide 165 (2001), and, of course, it breached my loan contracts. However, neither the bank nor the regulators have investigated any of my complaints, until now, I am still in disputes with the bank. No customers, like me, are protected when the bank and the regulators did not comply with the rule of law and attempted to avoid paying us compensation and an apology.
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.