SYDNEY (Reuters) - The chief executive of Australia’s Westpac Banking Corp stepped down on Tuesday over a money laundering scandal involving child exploitation, just a day after he told staff it was “not a major issue” and that he intended to stay on.
Regulator AUSTRAC last week launched legal action accusing Westpac of enabling 23 million payments in breach of anti-money laundering laws, including the facilitation of offshore payments relating to child exploitation.
Here are some key quotes from Westpac and government ministers since AUSTRAC announced its action on Nov 20.
WESTPAC CEO BRIAN HARTZER, STATEMENT TO STOCK EXCHANGE, NOV 20:
“These issues should never have occurred and should have been identified and rectified sooner. It is disappointing that we have not met our own standards as well as regulatory expectations and requirements.”
PRIME MINISTER SCOTT MORRISON, MEDIA CONFERENCE, NOV 20:
“Obviously, it’s appalling and distressing. The banks need to lift their game.”
PRIME MINISTER MORRISON, ABC RADIO INTERVIEW, NOV 21:
“These are things that the board and the management need to determine themselves. It’s not for the government to say who should be in those jobs or not, but 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. As you’ve highlighted in your report, these are some very disturbing, very disturbing transactions involving despicable behavior.”
ATTORNEY GENERAL CHRISTIAN PORTER, AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW, NOV 22:
“The whole point about efforts the government makes to prevent money laundering – and the laws that we pass to make money laundering illegal – is that money laundering is an offense that facilitates other offences.”
“It facilitates terrorism. Its facilitates slave trade. It facilitates child pedophilia rings. It’s a facilitating offense.”
TREASURER JOSH FRYDENBERG, ABC TELEVISION, NOV 24:
“We’re talking about 23 million alleged breaches of the anti-money laundering laws, we’re talking about a failure to adequately assess customers with links to child trafficking and child pornography. We’ve seen from AUSTRAC a statement that there has been indifference by the board, that there has been a systemic failure by the bank and there’s been inadequate oversight.”
WESTPAC CHAIRMAN LINDSAY MAXSTED, AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW, NOV 25:
“We think for Brian not to be CEO would be an amazing piece of destabilization of a company. But we also understand, on the other hand, there is some destabilizing going on, possibly, by him being here.”
PETER DUTTON, MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS, PARLIAMENT, NOV 25:
“It is clear that the Westpac bosses, through their negligence, have given a free pass to pedophiles, and there is a price to pay for that. That price will be paid, and we have been very clear about it.”
WESTPAC CEO HARTZER, IN A MEETING WITH SENIOR EXECUTIVES, AS REPORTED BY THE AUSTRALIAN CITING SOURCES, NOV 26:
“But actually for people in mainstream Australia going about their daily lives, this is not a major issue so we don’t need to overcook this.”
“This is not an Enron or Lehman Brothers.”
On cancelling staff Christmas parties:
“Unfortunately in the heightened media environment it will not look good if we have our staff whooping it up with alcohol.”
WESTPAC CHAIRMAN MAXSTED, MEDIA AND ANALYST CALL, NOV 26:
Hartzer’s comments were “very disappointing statements and I and the board do not agree.”
“The statements as I understand it need to be read in context. He’s given me some outline to the context of them but no, we don’t agree with that at all.”
WESTPAC CEO HARTZER, ANNOUNCING RESIGNATION IN STATEMENT TO STOCK EXCHANGE, NOV 26:
“As CEO I accept that I am ultimately accountable for everything that happens at the bank. And it is clear that we have fallen well short of what the community expects of us, and we expect of ourselves.”
Compiled by John Mair; editing by Jane Wardell
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