Last month, AUSTRAC, the organisation tasked with enforcing anti-money laundering laws, took action against Westpac. This flagged its escalating hard-line approach against the big banks for failure to comply with the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) act.
AUSTRAC has filed a very detailed claim against Westpac and it’s a damning report. The repercussions have started even before the full scope of the claim has been tested, and Westpac appears to have publicly conceded most of the claim: the CEO has resigned, and Board members are stepping down. It’s the drop in share price, and the attention of other regulators ASIC and APRA who are also poised to take action, that raises the risk of downgrading the bank’s credit rating. More is likely to follow, with overseas regulators likely to be concerned about Westpac’s corresponding banking arrangements in their countries. But it’s the allegation that the bank facilitated and enabled child exploitation, and the scale of the breaches – 23 million occasions, that has left the public and some Westpac staff gob-smacked and dismayed.