By James Atkinson
As Senate hearings into the activities of the banking sector get underway, troubled Sydney live music venue the Sandringham Hotel has united with the Unhappy Banking activist group, alleging unconscionable conduct by BankWest.
Unhappy Banking founder Geoff Shannon will address the Senate hearing into the post-GFC banking sector on Friday.
He welcomed the 'Sando', which entered receivership last month, as the latest small business owner to the grassroots movement fighting unethical bank actions.
"It is never good for us to come across another business owner in such financial distress, who has been treated extremely badly by a bank, but unfortunately we are seeing a pattern of this," he said.
"Businesses that are trading successfully, with no default of payments to the banks are suddenly being forced to wall because the bank simply changed their internal views and processes. It is criminal."
Sandringham Hotel owner Tony Townsend said he simply couldn't understand how or why Bankwest – with whom he had a successful and ongoing relationship – could come in and change the rules on his loan to effectively force him out of the business.
"We never missed a payment to the bank, we were on track," he said.
Townsend said he has had both his books and the bank's action reviewed by a panel of senior business advisers.
"They have told me there is no rational case for the bank acting toward me in this manner, and anomalies appear to exist with the bank's action."
Geoff Shannon said it appears from his initial review of the Sando case that Tony Townsend is "another victim of Project Magellan" – an audit undertaken by the Commonwealth Bank after it acquired Bankwest in 2008.
"It is very complicated, but effectively we believe Commonwealth Bank reviewed the Bankwest commercial loan book to clear over 1000 loans that were outside Commonwealth's lending guidelines. They didn't just shift the goalposts, they took them away," he said.
Shannon has successfully lobbied the Federal Government for a Senate inquiry into banking practices post-GFC, which starts today.
Click here for more on the inquiry and a response by Bankwest.