Sunday, October 25, 2020

Westpac CEO faces pressure over Australia biggest money-laundering scandal

-

Pressure mounted on the chief executive of Westpac Banking Corp on Thursday over the handling of Australia’s biggest money laundering scandal, with the prime minister calling on bank’s board to review his position.

Australian regulator AUSTRAC is suing the country’s No.2 bank for 23 million breaches of anti-money laundering laws including a failure to monitor and report payments between known child exploiters.

“These are some very disturbing, very disturbing transactions involving despicable behaviour,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Australian Broadcasting Corp on Thursday.

Westpac’s board “need to determine themselves” whether CEO Brian Hartzer should resign, he added.

- Advertisement -

“They should be taking this very seriously, reflecting on it very deeply and taking the appropriate decisions for the protection of people’s interests in Australia – their safety,” Morrison said.

The prime minister’s voice added weight to a chorus of financial market participants demanding the Westpac board do more to contain a crisis at the top of one of the country’s largest companies ahead of a Dec. 12 shareholder meeting.

If owners of more than a quarter of the company’s shares vote against its executive pay plans at the meeting, it will be the second year in a row.

Under Australia’s “two strike” law, if investors vote down executive pay two years running, they can call for the entire board to be removed.

- Advertisement -

“We will vote against the directors,” said Dan Gocher, a director of shareholder activist the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, which holds Westpac shares. Financial advisers were being “inundated with clients who are considering (exiting Westpac) unless there’s a substantial change”, he added.

Australia’s big banks have been scrambling to rebuild community trust since a public inquiry in February found limited regulatory oversight had allowed the sector to engage in rampant profiteering.

The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) said the allegations from AUSTRAC were “incredibly concerning (and) doing nothing to rebuild public trust”.

“Investors take these matters seriously and will be engaging with the board ahead of the AGM,” said ACSI CEO Louise Davidson.

A Westpac representative did not respond to a request for comment.

Hartzer said the previous day he accepted most of the regulator’s assertions but “at a senior executive level, for the board, for me personally, in no way have we been indifferent on this”.

He said he had been “disgusted and appalled” by the allegations and vowed to “get to the bottom of why this was able to persist”.

Westpac had self-reported the breaches to the regulator and had since shut down the service at the centre of the complaint which let customers and affiliate overseas banks process payments from Australia, he said.

SHARE LOSSES MOUNT

The scandal comes a year and a half since larger Commonwealth Bank of Australia paid a record A$700 million penalty for similar breaches.

CBA brought forward its CEO’s retirement in light of its AUSTRAC lawsuit, with his successor leading a broader overhaul of the company’s executive level.

Westpac shares were down about 2% by the afternoon, taking the total losses to about A$5 billion of market capitalisation in the two days since the lawsuit was announced. The broader market was down 0.8%.

- Advertisement -

“We see a reduced capacity for WBC to manage its cost base and now expect costs to continue to rise in the medium term,” said Macquarie Group analysts in a note which forecast a fine of A$700 million for Westpac.

Investor lobby group The Australian Shareholders’ Association said in a statement it was “horrified” by the alleged reporting breaches and wanted to know the board’s response “as a matter of urgency”.

The ASA would raise the issue at a meeting with Westpac Chairman Lindsay Maxsted scheduled for the next week.

MUST READ

Julius Baer to deny two former CEOs their bonuses over money laundering scandal

Julius Baer will withhold millions of francs in bonuses from its former chief executives Boris Collardi and Bernhard Hodler, as a result of a...

Goldman Sachs executives to cover part payments of $3 billion fines in 1MDB scandal

Nine current or former Goldman Sachs executives, including CEO David Solomon, will have to pay back hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation over...

Goldman Sachs agrees $3 billion settlement with US DoJ over 1MDB corruption scandal

Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay nearly $3bn (£2.3bn) in the US to end a probe of its role in Malaysia's 1MDB corruption scandal. The...

Hong Kong fines Goldman Sachs $350 million over 1MDB scandal

Goldman Sachs ignored multiple red flags over the multibillion-dollar fundraisings it arranged for state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, Hong Kong’s financial regulator said on...

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton fires top aide who accused him of bribery

Lacey Mase, one of the top aides who accused Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton of crimes including bribery and abuse of office, has been fired, she told The...

Subscribe For More

Get our daily notification on the latest financial crimes news around the World

Advertisement
Advertisement

Latest News

This Week

Fundraiser Elliott Broidy pleads guilty in foreign agent case linked to 1MDB

Major Republican Party and Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy pleaded guilty Tuesday to acting as an unregistered foreign agent, admitting to accepting millions...

Goldman to pay over $2 billion in DOJ’s 1MDB Probe

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has reached a long-awaited pact with the U.S. Department of Justice to pay more than $2 billion for the bank’s...

Brother of ex-Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif jailed for money laundering

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif was sent to jail on Tuesday in a money laundering...

Crown Melbourne casino faces money laundering probe

Crown Resorts is facing a new threat to its casino licences and the prospect of multimillion-dollar fines after it was informed by Austrac, the...
Advertisement

Adblock Detected!

Our website is made possible by displaying online advertisements to our visitors. Please consider supporting us by whitelisting our website.

Enable Notifications    Ok No thanks