The Private Provision of Essential Financial Services and the Corporate Social Responsibilities of Banks and Insurance Companies


  • Therese Wilson Griffith Law School


Lack of access to both basic credit and basic insurance products have been recognised as two key aspects of financial exclusion in Australia. The neoliberal, or economic liberal, approach to corporate regulation, focusing on profit maximisation, free markets, and limited regulatory intervention, has led to suboptimal social outcomes. This is because of the impacts of financial exclusion, and in this article an argument is made for requiring some profit sacrifice by banking and insurance corporations, to provide basic financial services — as essential services — in accordance with their corporate social responsibilities. The article considers regulatory reform to support such profit sacrifice.

Author Biography

Therese Wilson, Griffith Law School

Deputy Head of School Learning and Teaching, Griffith Law School


A Articles/Books/Reports

Braithwaite, John, Responsive Business Regulatory Institutions in Charles

Sampford and Tony Coady (eds), Business, Ethics and the Law (1993)

Centre for Social Impact (for National Australia Bank), A Global Snapshot of Financial Exclusion (NAB, 2014)

Chant Link and Associates, A Report on Financial Exclusion in Australia (ANZ, 2004)

Chester, Lynne, ‘The Participation of Vulnerable Australians in Markets for Essential Goods and Services’ (2011) 68 The Journal of Australian Political Economy 169

Christopherson, Susan, Ron Martin and Jane Pollard, ‘Financialisation: Roots and Repercussions’ (2013) 6 Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 351

Connolly, Chris, Measuring Financial Exclusion in Australia (Centre for Social Impact, University of New South Wales, for National Australia Bank, 2014)

Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee, The Social Responsibility of Corporations (1 December 2006)

Crouch, Colin, The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism (Polity Press, 2011)

Department of Trade and Industry, UK, Fair Clear and Competitive: The

Consumer Credit Market in the 21st Century (DTI, UK, White Paper, 8 December 2003)

Greenstein, Ran, ‘Social Rights, Essential Services, and Political Mobilization in Post-Apartheid South Africa’ (2006) 29 Journal of Consumer Policy 417

Habermas, Jurgen, ‘The Concept of Human Dignity and the Realistic Utopia of Human Rights’ (2010) 41 Metaphilosophy 464

Kempson, Elaine, In or Out? Financial Exclusion: A Literature and Research Review (Financial Services Authority, 2000)

Lapavitsas, Costas, ‘Financialised Capitalism: Crisis and Financial Expropriation’ in Costas Lapavitsas (ed), Financialisation in Crisis (Brill, 2012)

Leyshon, Andrew, and Nigel Thrift, ‘Geographies of Financial Exclusion: Financial Abandonment in Britain and the United States’ (1995) 20(3) Transaction of the Institute of British Geographers, New Series 312

Lynch, Philip, ‘Human Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility: An Australian Perspective’ (2005) 1(4) The Corporate Governance Law Review 402

Marshall, Shelley and Ian Ramsay, ‘Stakeholders and Directors’ Duties: Law, Theory and Evidence’ (2012) 35(1) UNSW Law Journal 291

Micklitz, Hans, ‘Universal Services: Nucleus for a Social European Private Law’ in Marise Cremona (ed), Market Integration and Public Services in the European Union (Oxford University Press, 2011)

Moulton, Stephanie, ‘The Authority to Do Good: Publicly Responsible Behavior among Private Mortgage Lenders’ (2012) 72(3) Public Administration Review 430

Muir, Kristy, Axelle Marjolin and Sarah Adams, Eight Years on the Fringe: What Has It Meant to Be Severely or Fully Financially Excluded in Australia? (Centre for Social Impact, University of New South Wales, for National Australia Bank, 2015)

Nair, Tara, ‘Commercial Microfinance and Social Responsibility: A Critique’ (2010) 45(31) Economic and Political Weekly 32

Parkinson, John, Corporate Power and Responsibility: Issues in the Theory of Company Law (Clarendon Press, 1995)

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services, Corporate Responsibility: Managing Risk and Creating Value (2006)

Pierson, Christopher, Beyond the Welfare State: The New Political Economy of Welfare (Polity Press, 2006) 237.

Poon, Martha, ‘From New Deal Institutions to Capital Markets: Commercial Consumer Risk Scores and the Making of Subprime Mortgage Finance’ (2009) 34 Accounting, Organizations and Society 654

Ramsay, Iain, ‘Consumer Credit Law: Distributive Justice and the Welfare State’ (1995) 15 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 177

Reinhardt, Forest L, Robert N Stavins, and Richard H K Vietor, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility through an Economic Lens’ (Working Paper, No 13989, Harvard Kennedy Law School, April 2008)

Shamir, Ronen, ‘The De-Radicalization of Corporate Social Responsibility’ (2004) 30(3) Critical Sociology 669

Sheehan, Genevieve and Gordon Renouf, Risk and Reality: Access to General Insurance for People on Low Incomes (Brotherhood of St Laurence, 2006)

Wallison, Peter J and Bert Ely, Nationalizing Mortgage Risk: The Growth of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 2000)

Whyley, Claire, James McCormick and Elaine Kempson, Paying for Peace of Mind (Policy Studies Institute, 1998)

Wilhelmsson, Thomas, Services of General Interest and European Private Law in Charles Rickett and Thomas Telfer (eds), International Perspectives on Consumers’ Access to Justice (Cambridge University Press, 2003)

Wilson, Therese, ‘The Pursuit of Profit at All Costs: Corporate Law as a Barrier to Corporate Social Responsibility’ (2005) 30(6) Alternative Law Journal 278

Yosifon, David, ‘The Social Relations of Consumption: Corporate Law and the Meaning of Consumer Culture’ (2015) Brigham Young University Law Review 1309

B Cases

Greenhalgh v Arderne Cinemas [1945] 2 All ER 719

Woolworths v Kelly (1991) 22 NSWLR 189

C Legislation

Companies Act 2006 (UK)

Corporations Act 2001 (Cth)

Delaware Code, ch 1, § 365(a) (‘General Corporations Law’)

D Treaties

Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union [2000] OJ C 364/1 (18 December 2000)

E Other

Australian Communication and Media Authority, USO Obligations (25 May 2016) Australian Communication and Media Authority <


Australian Securities and Investments Commission, ‘Payday Lender Nimble to Refund $1.5 Million Following ASIC Probe’ (Media Release, 16-089MR, 23 March 2016) <>

B Lab Australia & New Zealand, The Benefit Company (2018) <>

Consumer Action Law Centre, A Fair Go in Insurance (1 April 2011) Consumer Action Law Centre <>

Essentials by AAI, Everyone Deserves Simple & Affordable Insurance (2018) Essentials by AAI <>

Good Shepherd Microfinance, Compare Loans (2017) <>

Good Shepherd Microfinance, Insurance for People on Low Incomes Wins Product and Innovation of the Year (21 October 2015) <>