Greed & Corruption – Business, Individuals & Government
Greed and Corruption span almost 6,000 years of civilization and all humanly devised governments have battled to contain the dread, pain and suffering that have generated widespread dishonesty, deceit, compromised morality with perverted cultures and beliefs that continue to debase people’s integrity, honour and moral values.
Greed is a powerful force that becomes a corrupting influence on people and their environment as money is seen to equal power and as the wealthy are seen to have more power, they assume that it becomes their right to have more authority over those people in the community that have a lot less. This creates a separation in the different socio-economic classes, which leads to inequality which in turn propagates more greed. Corruption evolves when those who have higher authority are able to abuse their power, causing chaos as more of the population become victims of crimes that impact their financial well-being. Businesses riddled with payment scandals, government officials perverting the disbursement of taxpayer dollars and burdening economies with excessive debts, individuals gouging businesses and the public purse in the pursuit of more money and assets are ever increasing.
Business – Financial Institutions
Banks and other financial institutions often sell their debt to other finance providers that have in house debt collection facilities. These debt collectors pay less than the debt is worth for the chance to chase down the entire sum, while the bank gets part of the loan paid out rather than writing off the full amount or waiting years to recoup payments.
In Australia, debt collectors are bankrupting citizens over small credit card debts, from as little as $5,000. Last financial year, one financial institution, Lion Finance (parent company Collection House Limited), filed 512 bankruptcy cases, specifically in those instances where their debtors owned a home or had equity through a property mortgage, were notified that they were placing their homes in the hands of a trustee unless they paid their outstanding debts within 21 days.
As well as Lion Finance, Collection House Limited owns a legal practice, CLH Lawyers, which prosecutes its bankruptcy claims. The company adds costs during the process, which can triple the amount owed by debtors within a couple of months. A debt of $5,000, by the time it gets to the creditors’ petition can easily reach $10-15,000, with the addition of administrative costs, interest and legal fees. This method enables debt collection agencies to ‘extort’ more funds on a shorter time scale than if they were to offer their debtors a ‘wage garnishment’ (a court issued order requiring an employer to withhold a set amount of one’s wage/salary and electronically transfer it directly to the financial institution which is owed the money, until the debt is paid off).
Insights obtained from affected debtors stated that the company stealthily avoided sending any correspondence or communicating with them whilst they prepared the serving of bankruptcy notices, even though they were receiving regular debt repayments. As a result, people have lost their homes, whilst others have frantically sought to borrow tens of thousands of dollars from their families and/or friends to keep their homes and avoid being classified as bankrupt.
In Australia, Bankruptcy enforces a number of restrictions on affected individuals such as:
- Consent in writing must be obtained from your trustee to travel overseas (it’s an offence otherwise)
- Your name will permanently appear on the National Personal Insolvency Index
- Your ability to borrow money will be affected (you must inform the credit provider of your bankruptcy)
- Credit reporting agencies keep a record of your bankruptcy for 5 years
- You may lose the right to take or continue legal action
The Cop Out
Lion Finance has stated that it is confident in its procedures and practices in relation to its debt recovery practices. That’s it, just one line. This is because existing laws allow it. They know that, in the absence of a National Credit Code for debt collection agencies that they can continue to financially gouge individuals and families at will. The mere suggestion of introducing legislation to stop these practices has elicited the response…“that a national credit code would stifle growth and unfairly affect customers and merchants by slowing down the approvals process”. They don’t want the party to stop, so they propagate fear to justify their evil, greedy and corrupt practices that destroy people’s livelihoods, marriages and mental health.
Successive Australian Governments and ministers have allowed this to happen and there are no foreseeable plans to make any changes in this space, most likely because they don’t believe that there are enough votes to justify their self-serving objectives. Financial institutions want a continuance of the existing arrangement of self-regulation, but this has been proven to be ineffective and doesn’t work for customers, it only benefits the financial institutions.
Look at what happened with the Financial Services Royal Commission fiasco. Thousands of victims who have suffered bankruptcy, and lost everything at the hands of these financial institutions were hoping to receive compensation but as yet, nothing. The only outcome of the royal commission has been the articulation of more ‘stringent controls’ – no justice, no end to their grief. The Royal Commission propagated a sense of hope and trust, but where greed and self-serving interests are involved there can never be any trust.
Business – Banks
In October of 2008, following the Global Financial Crisis, the Commonwealth Bank acquired Bankwest, and shortly thereafter, proceeded to default hundreds of Bankwest borrowers, mostly developers and hoteliers and farmers who owned very valuable properties had their assets devalued. The resultant effect was a type of margin call, on over $8 Billion dollars in loans, whereby the bank forced the owners to sell their properties and to pay back all of their outstanding loans on very short notice… 60 Days.
These forced sales, caused mortgagees to suffer severe stress, mental torment, financial hardship and in many cases bankruptcy which also contributed to a high number of broken marriages. Most of these bank customers had not missed any mortgage payments, were not in any financial difficulty and were otherwise commercially viable. Yet the governing body and the Government stood by, doing nothing and allowed it to continue. Farmers stated that their foreclosed properties were sold off at fire sale prices after the bank forced them to refinance against their will, leaving many of them homeless and with huge debts. Most of these farmers have been bound by confidentiality clauses.
The use of ‘non-financial default clauses’, allow banks to use ‘new risks’ such as changing market conditions as reasons to re-assess loans. This means customers can find themselves technically in default, even if they are making their repayments, and are then forced to refinance to more expensive loan conditions. When asked for commentary by the media, a spokesperson for the CBA said “it was not appropriate for the bank to comment on the circumstances of individual customers. “Banks have no incentive to foreclose on loans, everyone loses under this scenario. “The best outcome for the customer and the bank is when the loan is repaid in full, and that often means coming up with a plan that will give the customer every opportunity to ride out their difficulties. But, regrettably in some cases, these options simply won’t avert an inevitable fact if there is no realistic way that the loan can be repaid.”
Let’s dissect this response and compare it to reality
Part 1 “It was not appropriate for the bank to comment on the circumstances of individual customers”
This is a tried and tested fool-proof response so that they can avoid providing any transparency.
Part 2 “Banks have no incentive to foreclose on loans, everyone loses under this scenario”. This is a blatant lie.
The incentive was to reduce risk-weighted assets (the process of increasing the capital ratio in the absence of raising more capital). Business lending is largely unregulated and Australian Banks are acutely aware of this. They are also aware that establishing misconduct and proving unconscionability is very difficult for individuals to litigate through the legal system. Successive governments have been complicit by not addressing this legal flaw.
Part 3 “The best outcome for the customer and the bank is when the loan is repaid in full, and that often means coming up with a plan that will give the customer every opportunity to ride out their difficulties. But, regrettably in some cases, these options simply won’t avert an inevitable fact if there is no realistic way that the loan can be repaid.” This is an all-encompassing statement intended to convey that they are fair, when in reality they’re not. Banks never lose, that’s why they foreclose, so that they can prevent possible losses.
The Bankwest borrowers experienced a quick series of events as follows:
- A sudden devaluation of their properties by valuers hired by the Commonwealth Bank with all resultant costs of these expenses being loaded onto the borrower’s mortgage balances
- All written and verbal communication with the borrowers suspended (whilst they planned their attacks)
- Receivers moving in on the back of high penalty interest rates with revised loan repayment terms and exorbitantly high service charges as well as the addition of Legal Costs which are borne by the lender
- Sale of borrower properties at significantly lower that market values for quick sales
A 2016 parliamentary inquiry into the impairment of 10,000 Landmark loans by the ANZ bank found it could not prove misconduct had occurred, but did find that farmers had been treated unfairly at the hands of major banks. Media attempts to ask the ANZ bank how many loans it had called in since 2009, a spokesperson declined to answer, saying the bank did not want to pre-empt questions that could come up in the royal commission.
This is the fool-proof deferment statement where it refuses to be transparent until it is legally obligated to.
The bank-financed Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) has been actively complicit in bank malpractice by its constituency of over 5,500 licensed member organisations that includes banks, insurers, credit providers, financial advisers, planners, debt collection agencies and other businesses that provide financial products and services together with an additional 8,000 authorised credit representatives – This is a Scam.
The Dark Side of the Commonwealth Bank (CBA)
- Pushing of foreign currency loans, ultimately at borrower expense, 1980s
- Corrupt foreclosure of Commonwealth Development Bank borrowers, 1990s
- Back door participation behind corrupt brokers in the Gold Coast ‘two-tier’ property scam, early 2000s
- The major force behind the Storm Financial margin-driven investment scam, 2000s
- The locking out of investors from their savings in the Colonial First State’s Mortgage Income Fund, late2000s
The defrauding of investors through the advisory network of Commonwealth Financial Planning
The CBA has been engaged in corrupt activities for decades, so the presumption of guilt should rest with the bank, but every time it gets away with a major scam, it proceeds onto the next one. Whilst senior executives leverage corporate muscle for corrupt purposes, their subordinate individual employees knowingly prostitute their integrity for their employer, protected by corporate resources, regulatory/judicial and political cowardice, they become complicit.
Governments Partnering with Banks in Corruption & Greed
The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry generated 76 recommendations which all point to future conduct and regulations. There is no requirement for the banks to repatriate victims for their corrupt practices. To the tens of thousands of businesses and individuals negatively impacted by Australia’s corrupt financial institutions and banking practices, they will still remain homeless, still suffer from mental decay and will continue to remain destitute. All hope for reimbursement is now lost. The banks ‘got away with it’…again.
The commissioner urged banks to ensure agricultural-land valuations are carried out independently of lenders assessing new loans and consider the possible effect of external events that might be needed to sell the land for a fair value. It also wants banks to recognise that the appointment of receivers or external administrators should only be a remedy of last resort. The use of the word ‘urged’ by the commissioner is an empty statement, much like the entire list of recommendations, unless protections are enforced by law, nothing will change for the better.
This outcome, protects the banks from paying out hundreds of millions of dollars to their victims for their malpractice over many decades and cements their corrupt activity arrangement with successive governments.
All of the major banks stated that their customers would be free to give evidence at the royal commission, but that the privilege did not extend to them talking to the media. Once again, another example of how the banks have perfected their stranglehold on transparency. The banks are unconscionable, immoral, unethical, unprofessional and in many areas illegal.
Despite long exposure to bank litigation, the courts limit their investigations to contractual terms of reference and are generally partisan towards the banks in their judgements, by default complicit – individuals mostly lose out. As a general procedure, judges will ignore the details of a particular case, the nature of the contract and the subsequent corrupt foreclosure process. The judge will focus on the fact that the borrower has signed a contract of their own ‘free will’ and has been in receipt of bank funds that must be repaid. The court’s position is that foreclosed bank borrowers are thus victims of their own incompetence and deserve no sympathy. This is a multi-tiered scam that incriminates the Banks, the Courts and the Government as complicit participants in the financial destruction of hard working Australians.
If the victim is ‘lucky’ enough to go through mediation, the lawyers from both sides, in collaboration, will force the borrower to sign a deed of settlement under duress stating that (“you will never win in court”), “resolving” the conflict to “the mutual satisfaction” of all parties. The victims are then compelled to sign a document (a Deed signed under duress) knowing it to be a fraudulent document, wherein the bank denies all the corrupt activities and procedures that have led to the victim’s financial demise.
Banks Extend Greed & Corruption Always Further
During the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Treasurer Wayne Swann, stated that the Government would guarantee all deposits in Australian banks, building societies & credit unions, making it liable for up to $700 billion in bank deposits, including all money that Australian banks borrowed internationally.
How have the banks shown their appreciation to the Australian taxpayers funding this guarantee? By not passing on the full Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) interest rate cuts intended to drive economic growth to keep people in jobs and improve their quality of life. In effect, repetitive slaps in the face to successive governments for having provided these guarantees. Since 2012, 13 interest rate cuts totalling 3.5% have been applied sparingly to reduce payments for struggling mortgage holders. The difference (1.7%) has gone directly into Bank profit calculations and when applied to the collective combined total of $1.51 Trillion in bank loan portfolios (as at 2020) and amortised over the past 7 years, withheld interest rate cuts equate to just over $109 Billion Dollars in collective profits to all of the big 4 banks.
The banks continue with their corrupt practices driven by an insatiable greed to achieve profit, sales and share bonuses, because our government ministers have been too weak to impose tougher conditions on the very greedy board members and management hierarchy seeking to gouge more money for themselves. One possible solution is to introduce foreign competition and make Australia’s Big 4 banks, the Big 8 banks. This will increase the level of competition and deliver improved financial outcomes to both existing and new mortgage holders, whilst spreading the profits available amongst the big 4 Australian banks across 8 banks.
It Gets Worse…A Lot Worse
Commonwealth Bank Australia (CBA) advisers charged dead clients for financial advice over many years and recently it was discovered that it breached money-laundering laws more than 53,000 times related to its uncapped cash-deposit machines. The CBA never admits fault and will always deflect responsibility to other factors like system errors for underpaying over 8,000 staff by more than $15 million dollars. Privatisation, deregulation, self-regulation, de-supervision and de facto decriminalisation has created a toxic organisational structure which is conducive to criminal activity.
WESTPAC Bank were caught breaching money-laundering laws more than 23 million times failing to report more than $11 billion dollars in dubious transactions including exposure to child exploitation risks. The bank deceived by omission, allowing 23 million criminal transactions to happen on its watch and stood by and did nothing to prevent this from happening. Sadly, a lot of people still think that staying silent or not taking action means they are not complicit in the deception, but they are…it’s lying by omission which has germinated because the bank has chosen to focus on short-term strategies, profit maximisation, shareholder return & their performance bonuses.
Questions arise on how much blame can be apportioned to the employees who sold the junk insurance, billed dead people, or the fault of compliance teams that ignored the 23 million transactions. The fact is that they are complicit by their actions and for failing to stand up for what was morally right. However, this conduct, behaviour, effort, was justified, endorsed and approved by senior management and board members, so the fault lies with everyone in the divisional structure as it’s all about the intention to deceive. Everyone presided over a culture where there was no honour, no morals, no decency and no respect. Just greed, corruption, self-interest, disrespect and disregard for the welfare of their fellow human beings – This is profit maximisation at its worst.
All of this deceit was supported by the big global accounting firms, KPMG, EY, PwC and Deloitte that each have auditing as well as consulting businesses whereby they audit Australia’s banks whilst also receiving consultancy fees. This is a clear breach of transparency & accountability representing bad governance as there is a conflict of interest of an auditor that reviews the accounts of banks to ensure the validity & legality of their financial records whilst it receives larger fees as a consultant – this is another example of blatant corruption and greed.
Popular ‘buy now, pay later’ services like Afterpay and Zip Pay have been the subject of more than 400 complaints to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority in 2019. There is an increasing number of calls to the federal government to increase regulation of these services, as more than a million transactions are now made each month which allow shoppers to buy something immediately and pay the amount back in instalments without interest being charged. Depending on the service, the maximum amount that can be borrowed varies between $1,000 and $30,000. The complaints relate to unauthorised transactions, incorrect fees and negative impacts on individuals’ credit ratings.
The industry is working on a code of practice that could result in a set of minimum standards in contentious areas, such as assessing a customer’s capacity to pay and limiting revenue from late fees. Currently buy now, pay later is not subject to the National Credit Act and its Code, meaning the providers are not required to meet responsible lending obligations, such as assessing someone’s suitability for a loan or having hardship arrangements, something consumer groups want to change.
The industry is divided on what further regulation is needed, with some key players arguing that applying the national credit code would stifle growth and unfairly affect customers and merchants by slowing down the approvals process – sounds familiar? It’s a lot like the argument for self-regulation the financial institutions, guilty of destroying the financial well-being of hundreds of thousands of Australians. This is because of the fact that No Code of Conduct that is voluntary has ever worked – corporate self-regulation is a contradiction in terms.
Governments Devaluing Small Business
The taxi industry experienced a significant devaluation of individual’s financial livelihoods when in 2014 the rideshare company Uber was openly allowed to enter the market by state governments around the country without any compliance obligations. The entry of Uber attracted thousands of unregulated drivers to join their network which negatively impacted and caused the value of taxi licences to plunge from $400-$500,000 to about $50,000 overnight without any prior warning. The Victorian State government established a repatriation package by placing a levy on all Taxi/Uber/Hire car trips to compensate taxi owners for the loss in value of their licences but in essence this amounted to buying back licences at a small fraction of their worth.
Over the past 6 years, there have been hundreds of taxi owners that have been paying off licences that they owe hundreds of thousands of dollars on, in loans to banks on assets that are only worth 10-20% of their loan values. People have lost their jobs, their incomes, their businesses and faced extreme financial hardship. The pressure on taxi and hire car families has been immense, in some cases people have committed suicide.
Overseas, very few governments’ have had the courage to take a stand against the unregulated rideshare provider to protect their local industry. In Australia, the state premiers and government ministers that have allowed this to happen are all sleeping comfortably without a care in the world, continuing to benefit from their exorbitant incomes funded by the very people whose lives and livelihoods they have destroyed.
Greed & Corruption Everywhere
Forced to admit that they have been underpaying around 2,500 casual staff over the last six years
Stated that an error, had caused 55 of their workers to be underpaid by an average of $8,000,000 over several years
SUPER RETAIL GROUP
Owners of Rebel Sport, Supercheap Auto and BCF forced to admit underpaying staff overtime by $32 million
MICHAEL HILL JEWELLEREY
Forced to admit that it had underpaid current and former employees by $25 million
Forced to admit it had underpaid current and former staff $2.3 million
ROCKPOOL DINING GROUP
Were forced to admit that it owed staff over $10 million in back pay
Forced to admit by the Financial Ombudsman that it owed $300 million to 5,700 staff in back pay over 9 years
Bankrupting thousands through 12,000 gambling machines across the 323 pubs and clubs it owns across the country
Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Audi, Porsche, SEAT, Skoda, Renault, Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep all managed by greedy and corrupt management hierarchies, produced diesel-powered vehicles to cheat on government emissions tests. Thus rendering carcinogenic diesel particulates into the air that exceeded maximum allowable levels by 10 times, contributing to increased incidence of lung and bladder cancer amongst the general population
Initiating a $1 per Litre Price War on Milk, forcing thousands of dairy farmers into bankruptcy
Switching customers away from the drugs prescribed to them by their doctors (by the companies that spend tens of millions of dollars developing them), to generic brands (copied by manufacturers for free after 5 years when the patents expire) that offer a saving of $2 to the patient but generate 5 times the profit to the pharmacists.
GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE
Forcing regional and metropolitan communities that have built and paid for their own churches, to sign over the Property Titles/Deeds to the Archdiocese (jurisdiction of a bishop) just so that they can be assigned a priest for services that have previously been paid by community members. That’s a multi-million dollar hand-over of property assets, just to have a priest preside of the local community (for an annualised cost of $60,000).
Organising regular weekly appointments for the elderly and for new community members where English is not their first language, so as to claim more consultancy payments through Medicare, including follow up visits for obtaining blood test results (that other medical centres provide for free over the phone).
PRIME MINISTERS/OPPOSITION LEADERS
Pledging billions of dollars in new projects to sway voters into electing them, plunging the country into increased levels of debt that will never be repaid, that no government has ever reduced which is costing the Australian taxpayer $1.5 Billion dollars in interest payments every month as at 2019.
Putting elderly and/or mentally disabled family members under duress to sign over properties and cash savings
Business - Franchises
In Australia, the franchise sector is a $170 billion industry. Retail Food Group (RFG) is the country’s biggest food franchise operator, whose brands include Donut King, Brumby’s, Gloria Jean’s, Crust Gourmet Pizzas and Michel’s Patisserie. RFG has a market capitalisation of about $800 million and claims to have more than 2,500 stores.
Many people who buy into a franchise have little or no experience in business and buying into a franchise lowers the perceived risk. Hundreds of franchisees have been financially devastated after signing up to one of the franchise brands under the RFG umbrella. The network is littered with franchisees who have lost their homes, suffered marriage breakdowns and decimated their retirement savings. Some franchisees have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and are happy to just walk away and suffer the consequences of bankruptcy. Others continue to suffer by struggling to pay the interest on their investment loans because they’re unable to sell their businesses, so they have to continue working and remain imprisoned in a worsening debt trap.
There is a growing list of franchisees that are not able to draw an income, but still have to pay exorbitant franchise and marketing fees because the RFG business model is based on franchisees growing sales not profit. RFG takes a royalty percentage of 7% from every sale, regardless of whether the store is generating a profit or loss. Franchisees also have to contribute between 3 and 6% of sales to a marketing fund bringing the total monthly charges to around a 13% average. Combined with an average monthly mortgage payment on $600,000, training fees, administration fees, rental costs, computer software fees, project management fees, utilities and labour costs, it is extremely difficult for franchisees to make a profit or continue to survive on an income below the poverty level.
In addition, RFG owns Hudson Pacific, which supplies frozen foods, cheese and dairy, so it makes money from the raw food it sells to franchisees as well as selling coffee beans to Gloria Jean’s, Michel’s and Donut King. RFG also generates income from its suppliers in the form of rebates which are percentage based incentives as high as 20% of all goods purchased. RFG has been silent on this issue for 2 reasons – 1) it is an extremely high number when the calculation is applied to their business value of hundreds of millions of dollars and 2) it conflicts with the intended benefits of a franchise system, in that it removes the financial benefit to franchisees in the form of buying power that should be translated into lower buying costs of food and beverages.
When franchise agreements come up for renewal, franchisees are required to pay an additional $50,000 fee plus spend in the order of $250,000 to $400,000 for store refurbishment requirements that include new store layouts, fixtures and fittings and signage banners. When franchisees, already struggling to stay afloat cannot borrow these funds from banks, they are forced to walk away with nothing. This in turn, enables RFG to make more money from buying stores back for a fraction of their original sale price and then placing the same stores back on the market for hundreds of thousands of dollars, waiting for the next unsuspecting sucker.
RFG have been reluctant to respond to questions raised by investigative media reports. Instead, opting to issue a statement saying it recognised its franchisees were operating in a challenging and evolving retail market, particularly in shopping centres. “The livelihood and profitability of franchisees is of the utmost importance to RFG, and consequently it is focused on driving enhanced outcomes for franchisees,” the statement says. “RFG already has in place a number of proactive measures to inform, support and educate franchisees to ensure they are aware of their obligations as employers,” RFG said. This is an empty statement intended to downplay any negative sentiment. No sooner is it said, that it is immediately forgotten by the general public, the government and any relevant departments, so RFG can continue to destroy the financial livelihoods of its franchisees.
Examples of blatant fraud abound, all around the country. One couple who opened a store in Castle Hill NSW took out a loan for $350,000 after depositing $100,000 of their own money. After 10 years, the store was worth $600,000 but they were caught by surprise when all of a sudden they were refused an agreement renewal. As a consequence, they were forced to sell their store back to Nando’s who only paid them $100,000 for it. However, before taking the store back, Nando’s demanded that they renovate the store using their preferred shopfitter at a cost of $300,000 which was later reduced to $80,000 because the franchisees stated that they couldn’t afford it. The couple eventually paid the reduced amount, walked away with no assets & continue to pay off their debt of $200,000.
Nando’s often sell stores to franchisees in new suburban areas, and if they find out its doing well they muscle the them out to keep it for themselves as a corporately owned store. If the store is underperforming they openly extort more money from franchisees in the form of their refurbishment strategy pressuring them to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars more before forcing them out and selling the store to a new franchisee.
Supposedly, franchisees do have legal rights emanating from unfair contract provisions under Australian Consumer Law that may, but do not always, apply. Based on this interpretation, any potential litigation is generally avoided as it suggests that the odds will be stacked against any individual claimants. Even when franchisees have claims against franchisors, franchisees typically don’t have the financial resources to pursue those claims in court because their funds have been consumed by the business purchase price and additional, recurring license and infrastructure costs, so litigating such a claim is likely to costs tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Many are forced to walk away with nothing, having invested their life savings building up the stores.
The desperate plight of franchisees only ever receive limited media attention rendering them without any redress as government bodies, rarely react, as often this can take up to 10 years before action is finally taken, but by that time, the suicides, mental afflictions, destroyed families and homelessness have consumed their souls.
Forty-four franchises have ceased operating in the past three years and approximately 60 per cent of Nando’s remaining 198 Australian stores are now company-owned, which indicates that their end game is intended to be a total group sale of fully company-owned restaurants…the final nail in the coffin for well-intentioned franchisees.
Greed & Corruption Examples Abound
Manipulating the system to gouge more profit, reduce costs, robbing franchisees of their livelihoods and exploiting workers by tinkering with the minimum wage allowance has been developed as an art form within the Grill’d burger chain. Grill’d, which turns over about $370 million annually and last year made a profit approaching $45 million before paying interest or tax. Recently, over 5,000 current and former workers signed a petition exposing the company’s training program, suggesting it was a form of wage theft that resulted in promises to have staff complete traineeships within 18 months. An overwhelming majority of Grill’d workers (93%) felt the traineeship was a waste of time and had little educational value with many describing it as a farce and a scam.
Directing new employees to do traineeships, under the Enterprise Agreement allows Grill’d to pay them less by removing penalty rates for weekends, public holidays and work performed after 9pm on weekdays in addition to restricting overtime payments, thus allowing them to gouge more money from workers into their profits.
Under the Grill’d enterprise agreement a school leaver on a traineeship is paid $14.50 an hour whilst workers aged 16 and under are paid $11 an hour and an adult trainee at Grill’d receives $18.50. A non-trainee adult at Grill’d gets $21.75 an hour, seven days a week (18% more than a trainee). When compared against the government mandated Fast Food Award, which is supposed to provide the basic safety net for the sector, requiring that adults are paid up to $22.70 during the day and $28.38 an hour if they work Saturdays, Grill’d employees are being fleeced – this is Greed & Corruption continuing to happen over may years. Extrapolated out across a workforce of thousands of people over the years, it amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars in extra profits for Grill’d – this is still happening and the government is doing nothing about it.
The government does not monitor these companies, does not reprimand them and does not offer full free legal advice to young employees, so they are often subjected to malpractice by devious, greedy and corrupt employers.
Grill’d Franchisees are also being mistreated as they refer to a clause in the franchise agreement that makes it difficult to sell their business to outsiders, as Grill’d head office has first and last right of refusal on any sale. This is very similar to the clauses employed by RFG and suggests there is a wider plan to phase out as many franchisees as possible and then list the company on the stock exchange or sell it to private equity, as it would attract a higher valuation with largely corporate stores.
Of 137 restaurants in the Grill’d chain, 105 are owned and operated by Grill’d and the remaining 32 (23%) are franchises. Over the past few years the ratio of corporate stores to franchisees has shifted further towards company-owned restaurants. In a recent statement a spokesperson stated “…Unfortunately, over 15 years in business, a small number of our franchisees have run into difficulties. This is unavoidable. Where this has happened, our priority has been to initially help them as best we can…”
This is a blatant lie, because 10 years ago the Grill’d chain of restaurants was a 50/50 ownership structure, 50% franchised stores and 50% corporately owned. A 46% shift from franchised to corporate, now sitting at 23% is not a ‘small number of franchisees that have run into difficulties as 77% are now corporate stores. This shift is only going to increase.
In one example, Grill’d renegotiated a lease with Westfield Shopping Centres on behalf of a franchisee without his involvement or input, committing him to a 60 per cent increase in rent. Grill’d also pledged that the franchisee would refurbish the restaurant at a cost of $600,000. That burden was imposed just as Westfield embarked on an 18-month renovation of the shopping centre. Besides disrupting foot traffic, the refit introduced a food court with serious new competitors and closed the car park outside the restaurant.
The result was a 40 per cent fall in sales in the first year, and then again in the second year, as the franchisee grappled with paying an extra $10,000 a month in rent. By December 2018, the franchisee had lost his business, house, cars and savings, rendering him bankrupt. He also suffered a breakdown, suffers from anxiety and went through depression that culminated in him considering taking his own life. Grill’d play the long game, knowing that franchisees will eventually ‘bleed to death’ as they run out of money so they win the store back and remove the individual owner. This store is now a corporate store. This is insatiable Greed & Corruption at its Worst.
A recent research paper, highlighted in Current Directions in Psychological Science, showing that when people behave unethically, they engage in a range of self-serving behaviours to reduce their feelings of dissonance and discomfort. Across nine experiments and a total of 2,100 participants, it was found that memories of unethical behaviour become less clear, less detailed, and less vivid over time compared to other memories. It was also found that the negative feelings prompted by cheating fade quickly, with participants in the cheating condition test, reported feeling just as moral as those in the non-cheating condition just two days after their misdeeds.
Further experiments suggest that unethical amnesia is one explanation for why people cheat persistently over time. The results indicate that unethical amnesia is driven by the desire to lower one’s distress that comes from acting unethically and to maintain a positive self-image as a moral individual. This may be an adaptive, defensive behaviour, because people are less likely to retrieve memories that threaten their self-concept and induce a negative mood. As a result, because unwanted memories of their dishonest behaviour are obscured, people are more likely to act unethically repeatedly over time.
The Wash Up
The main objective of all Franchise Agreements is to lure unsuspecting ‘investors’(Franchisees) that have the capacity to borrow substantial sums of money to enter into a contractual agreement, that is written to ensure that all flexibility for ownership and sale is to the primary advantage of the Franchisor 95% of the time.
Warning to anyone looking to sign up to and invest their livelihoods in a Franchise Agreement – Don’t Do It.
If you want to get into business for yourself, do your own initial research, look to ‘set up shop’ in a location yourself, develop your own product(s) and do your own marketing – you can always hire ‘expertise’ in any field on a ‘needs basis’ and pay as you go without overextending your exposure to extreme risk and devastating hardship.
Successive Bank Board Members, CEO’s, MD’s along with management hierarchies have for the past 50+ years conducted their business in an opaque environment, supported by government inaction, to create an unstoppable force for the sole purpose of making more money. Typically, every time a bank is implicated in a questionable practise, TV Marketing Campaigns that pitch the banks as caring, community mined institutions with some very emotive scenes are quickly executed across the media spectrum to maximise reach, for the purpose of changing people’s perceptions into continuing their custom – and guess what, It Works, Every Single Time.
Self-Serving Government Ministers and the broader infrastructure of government departments have not had the desire, to help ‘Average Australians’ (who ministers talk about for their political objectives) in recouping monetary losses from the greedy and corrupt practices of businesses (including Banks). Restoring the dignity and well-being of all Australians, should be managed through a Business Tribunal (similar in purpose to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal) where parties from all sides have the opportunity to be heard in a risk free environment without any lawyers, whereby judgements can be made on outcomes that are regarded as being just and fair.
No Human Solution
Corruption is like a cancer that has spread through all levels of society, to the judiciary and the legislative/executive branches of government. Corruption has become a way of life, something considered normal by many. Corruption can lead to death and damage of property when self- serving/self-preserving government officials don’t consider how their decisions/actions/inactions allow businesses and/or individuals to negatively impact other people’s lives.
Corruption is not only a personal act, it’s also a personal sin which has harmful social consequences as it is also the manifestation of social sin. Sin is not just found in the hearts of individuals, but embedded in the systems of society, in political, economic and social structures. What makes this especially concerning is that acts of greed and corruption or toleration and abetting with them are no longer ordinarily viewed as sin, but are often considered as acts of cleverness when individuals are uncaught or mistakes when they are caught.
The obstacle that stands in the way of progress towards a society where greed and corruption doesn’t exist is the faulty foundation humankind has relied on for thousands of years which is described, here … “In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not…” Corinthians 4:4.
…“Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” Ephesians 2:2-3.
The above bible passages refer to the “god of this world” and “prince of the power of the air” who blinds the minds of men which is revealed in the excerpt … “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world…” Revelation 12:9.
What the majority of religious followers fail to realise, is that Satan (the Devil) is the god of this world which has successfully deceived humankind. In reality, human nature is actually Satan’s nature, as he influences the thoughts and actions of everyone. Blinded by this evil being, humankind has stumbled in darkness for thousands of years, trying every form of solution only to find that new coats of paint will not fix a faulty foundation.