Business

Banks cost us $800k

Steve Murphy, seen with wife Larissa, has joined a potential class action against the Commonwealth Bank.
Steve Murphy, seen with wife Larissa, has joined a potential class action against the Commonwealth Bank. Contributed

IT'S the potential "David versus Goliath" law suit that could restore accountability in banking practices nationwide.

Two Sunshine Coast businessmen are part of a possible class action against Bankwest and its owner, the Commonwealth Bank.

David Leslie and Steve Murphy say the banks' "unconscionable" treatment of them nearly sent them to the wall.

They lost "about $800,000" because of the way Bankwest changed its business dealings after it was taken over by the Commonwealth Bank in 2008.

The duo had been clients of Bankwest for about five years and had obtained finance to expand their childcare business nationwide and develop the Bli Bli shopping centre site.

They were employing 70 people and had visions of expanding their business to "employ about 500 people".

"Bankwest is the major reason this didn't go ahead," Mr Murphy said.

They say the Commonwealth has instructed Bankwest to lose or reduce some of its small to medium business loans, such as theirs.

Their views are shared by about 200 other disgruntled Bankwest clients, many of whom may be represented by IMF Australia in a potential class action.

Bankwest has strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Bankwest and the Commonwealth Bank's actions also could be the subject of a Senate Inquiry after a handful of former clients lobbied senators in Canberra this week.

Port Macquarie builder Geoff Shannon is the force behind this.

He started a website and lobby group, Unhappy bankers, to unite affected clients to "put a stop to the bastard bank".

Mr Shannon has been in close contact with the Sunshine Coast businessmen and said their case was a classic example of the banks' heartless action.

He said a Senate inquiry would reveal "the biggest fraud in Australian banking history".

"It will be a test case," he said.

"This will make banks account

able for the actions. It's a David versus Goliath battle and we won't be deterred."

Mr Leslie and Mr Murphy have compiled a dossier of 11 actions by Bankwest they deemed were "unconscionable" to send to Nationals Senator John Williams.

These include Bankwest financing approval for a loan for a third childcare centre and then pulling out two weeks before it settled, leaving them with a risk of losing their $190,000 deposit.

They say Bankwest "took $70,000 out of our account for penalty interest" and pushed rates up across the board by about 2.5% separate to what the Reserve Bank was doing at the time.

"We lost about $800,000 through that time," Mr Murphy said.

"We had to sell the (Bli Bli) shopping centre for less than we wanted to reduce debt, we had to split our business and sell off assets we didn't want to sell."

Topics:  bankwest, commonwealth bank, david leslie



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