Commonwealth Bank let dying man down

Noel Stevens. Picture: SUPPLIED

Noel Stevens. Picture: SUPPLIED

Noel Stevens never expected to spend his dying days fighting against the injustice he had suffered at the hands of the Commonwealth Bank.

Sick from terminal pancreatic cancer and dressed in his pyjamas, he answered questions from the bank's lawyers in a bedside hearing while nurses pumped morphine into his arm.

The Shellharbour father, represented by RMB Lawyer's Martin Culleton, had embarked on a David and Goliath legal battle in his dying days, after the claim on his CBA life insurance policy had been rejected.

It was the same policy that Mr Stevens had been advised to switch to less than two years earlier, after a CBA financial planner incorrectly told him he would receive the same insurance protection as his existing policy.

On July 3, 2012, Mr Stevens won his case when the court found the Commonwealth Bank was "negligent" and demonstrated "misleading and deceptive conduct".

He passed away three days later.

Mr Stevens' story was featured on the ABC's Four Corners program on Monday night, after a joint Four Corners/Fairfax investigation revealed a sales-driven culture within the Commonwealth Bank led to several clients receiving bad financial planning advice.

On Tuesday his sister, Julie Holloway, said she hoped that Mr Stevens' story would be a warning to people to be careful when taking financial advice.

"Don't be so trusting of big organisations like that ... do your homework and just be very sure before you sign on the dotted line," she said.

"I feel pleased it has been exposed and I hope some changes come from it."

It was advice echoed by Mr Culleton, who said to be "wary" that banks have a product to sell and to always seek a second opinion if something seems too good to be true.

The CBA has since acknowledged the "most appropriate action" in Mr Stevens' case would have been for him to have remained with his existing policy.

If the CBA had been "aware of all the relevant circumstances" there would have been no need for Mr Stevens to terminate his existing policy, it said in a statement.

Last July, consumer protection laws came into force, making it mandatory for financial advisers to act in their clients' best interests.

The federal government plans to change these laws by re-allowing advisers and bank tellers to be paid commissions on recommending products without considering their clients' circumstances.

An adviser's obligation to provide advice "in the best interests of the client" will also be diluted under proposed changes to the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) reforms.

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