Claims of forgery, claims of theft, a cover-up, deals done “off-the-books”, police kept in the dark … no it’s not a story about the Sicilian mafia, it’s a story about the Australian banks. As the Royal Commission looms, the banks are endeavouring to bury their disputes. Some disputes however, have gone too far.

After three years of despair, three years battling Queensland banking juggernaut Suncorp, its receivers BDO and its lawyers Gadens, Jim Davidson will make an eleventh-hour bid to save his cattle property tomorrow  in the Supreme Court of Queensland.

Davidson is but one of thousands of Australians in a dispute with their bank. Yet his case is peculiar in the sense that he claims his Suncorp bank manager simply made off with his overdraft.

That put him under, he says. Without working capital to buy and sell cattle, he could not pay the mortgage on his $7.8 million loan, and his overdraft. The bank appointed receivers in 2014 and now the farmer from the Atherton Tablelands is seeking an injunction to stop Suncorp selling his assets. Questions were put to Suncorp for this story but the bank declined to comment, saying the case was before the courts.

Earlier this year, Suncorp did provide a response to questions on the Jim Davidson situation, albeit limited in detail. It is appended below.

“The bank manager took my $675,000. He took the money,” Davidson said yesterday. “(It) left me in default. My overdraft ran out on November 20 2013). I first became aware in late November or December 2013 and
I confronted the bank manager about it but I was put in default”.

Cattle farmer Jim Davidson with his son

They appointed receivers BDO to Davidson’s company, Far North Queensland Cattle Company, in early April 2014. The bank claimed the cattle were in danger in the yards and the sent the receivers in without (conducting) farm debt mediation. The receivers made things worse.”

Davidson was compelled to sign a confidentiality agreement. He says he had investors, “Chinese people who were wanting to buy the property and pay the Suncorp debt but the receivers wanted to keep it in receivership”.

Davidson’s ordeal echoes many other disputes which come across the desk here at michaelwest.com.au. As in the case of other serious allegations which have beset the banking sector such as identity theft, forgery or money laundering, the banks rarely inform the police.

Besides taking the law into their own hands, other patterns which go to poor behaviour are mirrored in the Davidson claims. He says there were documents where his signature was forged. Observers of the Commonwealth Bank financial planning scandal may recall allegations of forgery in a Senate inquiry and in the media coverage. In terms of anybody being made accountable or being penalised at the CBA though, nothing came of it.

Identity theft: another day, another scandal at CBA

SUNCORP’S RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS PUT EARLIER THIS YEAR

Suncorp has a long history of working closely with its agribusiness customers to help them manage their finances. When a customer is unable to meet their financial commitments, we explore all available options to assist, and this typically includes Farm Debt Mediation prior to any appointment of Receivers and/or Managers. Suncorp does not take any action to appoint Receivers and/or Managers lightly, but considers many factors including the customer’s ability to meet their financial obligations, the protection of assets, and in the case of agribusiness customers, the welfare of animals. Across our $4.4 billion agricultural loan book, we have appointed a Receiver on less than 10 occasions since 2014 and this action has usually only been taken as a last resort, after a significant period of ongoing communication.

Due to confidentiality constraints, we are unable to comment on any matters relating to customers that are not on the public record. Given this, please see below responses to your questions:

Suncorp does not comment on the employment history of current or former employees.

Suncorp has not been contacted by the police in relation to any investigation. If we are contacted by the police, we will cooperate fully with any investigation.

It is a matter of public record that Suncorp appointed Receivers and Managers to Far North Queensland Cattle Company Pty Ltd in 2014.

As noted above, due to confidentiality constraints, we are unable to comment on any matters relating to customers that are not on the public record.

Suncorp is fully aware of its obligations under the new Queensland Farm Business Debt Mediation Act, and takes its obligations seriously. However, we cannot comment further due to confidentiality constraints.

As noted above, Suncorp has not been contacted by the police in relation to any investigation. If we are contacted by the police, we will cooperate fully with any investigation.

Why you’re never too old for the banks