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Hartzer’s Westpac fall is a very Australian story

The bank’s CEO and chairman are out, a week after allegations of AML failings that helped enable child exploitation.


On Tuesday, Brian Hartzer and Lindsay Maxsted, Westpac’s CEO and chairman respectively, resigned in the aftermath of a series of allegations against the bank by the anti-money laundering (AML) agency Austrac.

The furore brings down the chief executive, who had seemed least affected by Australia’s Royal Commission into banking behaviour; indeed, had seemed strengthened by it.

He joins a growing heap of former executives – Ian Narev at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), Andrew Thorburn and Ken Henry at National Australia Bank (NAB), Craig Meller and Catherine Brenner at AMP – brought low by bad practice in their institutions.

They had to go.

Austrac (the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre) announced on Wednesday that Westpac had breached AML laws 23 million times between 2013 and 2019, involving A$11 billion of transfers.


'Potential child exploitation risks'

But the real opprobrium came from the disclosure of 12 customers who had made large numbers of low-value payments that fit the pattern of purchasing child exploitation material. The 12, who made more than 3,000 payments between them, included one who had previously been convicted for child exploitation offences.

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