Royal Commission: Westpac – the one that didn’t get away

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It seems the Australian banking scandal has caught up with Westpac.

At the conclusion of the Royal Commission into the behaviour of Australia’s banks earlier this year, there was a sense that one of the big four banks had got away relatively unscathed: Westpac.

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Brian Hartzer, CEO, Westpac

None of its executives was ousted, it didn’t sell its wealth business as others had set about doing, it didn’t seem to have behaved as badly as the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and its leaders didn’t seem to misjudge the mood as badly as did National Australia Bank’s (NAB).

However, a year on, it seems that scandal has caught up with Westpac, too.

On Wednesday, it was hit with a civil lawsuit by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac) alleging that it breached money-laundering laws not once or twice but a cool 23 million times, covering A$11 billion of payments between 2013 and 2019.

Among the alleged breaches it didn’t detect: payments to child pornographers in the Philippines.

The allegations put the forthcoming Westpac AGM, on December 12, very much into the limelight.

The Royal Commission, the activities that led to it and the fallout from it toppled Ian Narev at CBA, Andrew Thorburn and Ken Henry at NAB, and Craig Meller and Catherine Brenner at AMP.

Brian Hartzer, the Westpac CEO, seemed to come through the whole thing with his reputation enhanced – but can he survive this?