Sleeping with the Enemy: ASIC’s case against National Australia Bank’s adversary hits a sex snag

by Callum Foote | Dec 2, 2022 | Finance & Tax, Latest Posts

“Hi Babe, always enjoy our romps” is not the type of evidence you’d expect in a corporate regulator’s case against an advocate for bank victims. Callum Foote explores ASIC’s curious prosecution of Geoff Shannon of Unhappy Banking fame, a case which has embroiled the National Australia Bank.

“Hi Babe, thanks for last night. Lovely for you to visit. I always enjoy your company and our romps.”

The bombshell dropped earlier this month. Star witness for the prosecution, Natasha Keys, was under cross-examination by Saul Holt KC in the courthouse at Southport. It emerged in open court that Keys was having an affair with a senior National Australia Bank executive while she was also the girlfriend of NAB adversary and bank victims advocate Geoff Shannon.

Things aren’t going too well so far for the corporate regulator. The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) is suing Shannon, claiming he was acting as a director while also a bankrupt. However, ASIC was also ordered to pay costs for the first couple of days following revelations that it relied on 16,000 documents provided to ASIC by Keys, a trove of emails which had not been given to Shannon’s defence team before the trial. 

And they are red hot. Besides the “Hi Babe” revelations and other personal matters, they shed light on the opaque world of banks, bank victim advocates, regulators and journalists (including journalist Michael West of this publication Michael West Media and reporters from AFR and SMH).

There is a tiny band of bank victim advocates, of which Geoff Shannon’s Unhappy Banking was one, and they are constantly at war with each other behind the scenes, as well as fighting the banks themselves and “dropping” stories to a handful of finance journalists to put pressure on the banks to settle with aggrieved customers.

The business model is to take a cut of any money recovered from the banks, whether by “lawyering up” or using media, as in this case of the blind pea farmer from Victoria who was charged 28% interest rates on his mortgage with the NAB.

Blind Injustice


The case against Shannon has been adjourned until next May, with Natasha Keys still under cross-examination. Interestingly, in 2018, Keys had allegedly met with Commonwealth Bank chief Matt Comyn and obtained a confidential settlement.

The settlement related to the CBA withdrawing a Keys mortgage on a Tea Tree farm in 2009. “Immediately after I bought the property, we had two subsequent flooding events, and I got into financial difficulty, and the bank took repossession action against the property,” she told the court.

It was following this event that Keys first contacted Unhappy Banking before being employed there, after months of volunteering. Interestingly, Keys’ meeting and subsequent settlement with the CBA was shortly followed by her dealings with ASIC.

ASIC has been asked whether it was in contact with either NAB or Commonwealth Bank before commencing the prosecution. Neither NAB, the CBA or ASIC were available for comment for this story. 

Unhappy Banking, unhappy bankers 

Unhappy Banking was established in 2011 to advocate for the rights of borrowers who felt they had been hard done by Australia’s big banks. Shannon and Unhappy Banking attained a sizeable profile in the lead-up to the Hayne Royal Commission into the banks.

In 2013, a separate business called Business and Personal Solutions (BAPS) was established alongside Unhappy Banking and Unhappy Customers to negotiate with the banks. 

BAPS would take a fee of up to 20% of any reduction in the debt in settlements with disgruntled borrowers.

ASIC alleges Shannon was making decisions behind the scenes at BAPS while disqualified as a director. Shannon was disqualified from running a business due to being declared bankrupt between December 2013 and February 2017.

Shannon claims he was not acting as a director but was working as an advocate for the brand Unhappy Banking.

Natasha Keys is central to ASICs prosecution of Shannon. She was formerly a director of BAPS debt mediation service.

Shannon, a flamboyant character like his his rivals in the debt mediation business, was declared bankrupt after his $6m loan from BankWest was recalled following Commonwealth Banks’ purchase of Bankwest in 2013. A property developer and former motorbike dealer, was attempting to finance a residential development at the time.

Along with dozens of other BankWest customers, Shannon believed the Commonwealth Bank had acted improperly by engineering defaults against Bankwest customers. The allegations were scrutinised by two parliamentary inquiries as well as ultimately dismissed by the Hayne Royal Commission.

But the fight against CBA did not endear Shannon and the BankWest victims to the banks, particularly when Shannon ramped up his banking advocacy activities.

we Can: CBA targets 84-year-old widow

Keys gave evidence to the Southport Magistrates Court in early November that Shannon remained her boss despite her directorship over the company while being examined by ASICs lawyers.

“Well, it was clear to me that Geoff had to have, I guess, the ultimate last say with all dealings to do with Unhappy Banking, and he had a proprietorship over Business and Personal Solutions, Unhappy Customers, Unhappy Banking,” Keys told the court.

Shock revelations

Shannon’s lawyers quoted an affidavit written by Keys when she resigned as director of BAPS in 2015.

In the affidavit, the reasons Keys gave for leaving BAPS was that Commonwealth Bank refused to deal with Shannon due to his advocacy work and that Shannon was dedicating his time to a new venture, Sun Asia.

ASIC had not seen this affidavit and instead relied on over 16,000 emails and documents that were downloaded by Natasha Keys while she was a director of Business and Personal Solutions in or around 2015.

Shannon’s lawyers were taken aback hearing Keys supplied 16,000 documents as these were not disclosed to the defence by ASIC. So ASIC has also been ordered to pay costs for Shannon’s lawyers to sift through the material. 

In 2018, Keys gave these documents to ASIC as well as journalists.

What they revealed to the court was that contrary to her affidavit, Keys was intending to be a founding partner behind Sun Asia, and that she and Shannon were in a long-term relationship. The transcripts also show Keys volunteered to assist ASIC in the prosecution.

So the timeline is:

  • ASIC witness has affair with NAB executive 2014 while working with BAPS,
  • Keys meets CBA chief Matt Comyn in 2018,
  • CBA makes secret settlement,
  • Keys volunteers BAPS documents to ASIC
  • ASIC assists Keys in her witness statement.

The bombshell dropped later though, last month when Shannon’s lawyers questioned the emails that showed Keys had a separate, concurrent relationship with Simon Graystone who was at the time the director of corporate banking at the NAB.

At the time, Unhappy Banking was also managing the case of a vulnerable client whose story was to have been aired on Nine Network’s A Current Affair.

Shannon’s lawyer read out an email from Keys to Graystone reading “Hi Babe, thanks for last night. Lovely for you to visit. I always enjoy your company and our romps. Now, you know I’m really not comfortable talking about work-related cases, but if I did not mention this, I would not feel right about it considering you were here last night.”

Keys then allegedly revealed to the NAB director the strategy to get the woman’s story on Current Affairs a week earlier.

Shadow director, that’s the question

ASIC’s case hinges on evidence given by Keys that Shannon was acting as the director of the company BAPS, giving instructions, and also that Unhappy Banking was a part of a corporation. Shannon’s case is that Unhappy Banking was not a company but rather a an advocacy brand, a website.

The corporate regulator’s suggestions that Keys acted as an administrative assistant to Shannon were challenged by revelations that in 2015, she established NMK Solutions Proprietary Limited.

NMK Solutions was a company through which Keys would independently continue the debt mediation work that she was doing for several Unhappy Banking clients: “I’d already been doing some of the work. So I was just carrying on the case on my own” she said.

The defence claims that Keys was self-managing clients and was in some cases instructing Shannon on strategies.

The trial has its next hearing dates set for 15 May 2023 to 18 May 2023 at Southport Magistrates Court.

In the meantime, the case shines a light on the double standards in corporate law enforcement where blue chip directors of Crown Resorts and Star Entertainment Group suffered not a day’s ban as directors, despite inquiry findings that both casino giants engaged in systemic criminal activity, Yet ASIC runs a case against a guy who was not a director of a small company.

Crown v Shannon: bigwigs off the hook, small fish fried

Callum Foote was a reporter for Michael West Media for four years.

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