Fraud, forgery, a financial planning scam at Australia's biggest bank that cost customers millions and a timid corporate watchdog that failed to act: These are some of the charges a powerful Senate committee has levelled against the Commonwealth Bank and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) that have led it to call for a royal commission into the scandal. (Aussie ABC)

If it said "planned scam" instead of "planning scam", I wouldn’t have asked this question, because a scam could be planned. I’m wondering how scam can be an agent. Does the phrase make sense in a way I'm not thinking of?

  • What does I would have passed the sentence mean? Jun 27, 2014 at 0:19
  • @EsotericScreenName, I wanted to say "I would have read without any qustions". After reading your comment, I've changed the question.
    – Listenever
    Jun 27, 2014 at 4:08

2 Answers 2


Planning is a gerund here, not an adjective modifying scam. Planning itself is modified by financial, forming a noun phrase which functions adjectivally to describe scam; the scam is of the financial planning variety. Financial planning is a service commonly provided at banks. I'm not sure how exactly the scam functioned, but presumably people came in for advice on how to manage their money better and instead wound up getting duped out of it.

Scam can be an agent just like any other noun (no counter examples come to mind). Of course, there are plenty of actions that a scam can't do, and a sentence with them would be grammatical but unsemantic. Some examples:

[A] financial planning scam at Australia's biggest bank ... cost customers millions

Here's a sentence extracted from the quote with scam as the agent. The scam caused customers to lose lots of money.

The scam ran for three months.

The scam was actively progressing for a period of three months (not literally running around!).

The scam fell apart, because everyone wised up.

The scam stopped working suddenly because everyone being tricked figured out what was going on.

  • 2
    I think it's better to explain/understand planning as a noun that functions as an adjective modifying scam. Financial planners prepare plans, financial plans, and the decisions and related activities can be called planning, financial planning. A financial planning scam is a scam that involves financial planning as you suggested. Jun 27, 2014 at 1:35

"financial planning" is a business activity. Like say "dental surgery" or "computer programming." It's that simple.

You could have a "financial planning scam," "dental surgery scam," or "computer programming scam."

Many people have a "financial planner," much as they have say an accountant or dentist. "My girlfriend's father is a financial planner, his office is in that building."

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