June 3, 2020 / 11:19 PM / a month ago

Australia's Westpac reveals findings from compliance review

FILE PHOTO: A pedestrian looks at his phone as he walks past a logo for Australia's Westpac Banking Corp located outside a branch in central Sydney, Australia, November 5, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo

(Reuters) - Australian lender Westpac Banking Corp (WBC.AX) on Thursday blamed “faults of omission” and “not intentional wrongdoing” for breaching anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism laws.

Last November, Australian regulator AUSTRAC filed a civil lawsuit, accusing the bank of presiding over 23 million payments that violated anti-money laundering protocols, including those made by Australians to child pornography purveyors in the Philippines.

The country’s second-largest bank last month admitted to charges of breaching money laundering laws, but denied accusations it enabled illegal payments between known child sex offenders.

Unclear accountabilities as well as a lack of understanding and expertise caused compliance failures, the company said in a statement.

The bank, which concluded its investigation into issues raised by AUSTRAC, said that the failure to correctly report international transfer of funds was due to a mix of technology and human error going back more than a decade.

“Consequences that have been applied to individuals include significant remuneration impacts and disciplinary actions,” Westpac Chief Executive Officer Peter King said. “A number of relevant staff had already left the company.”

The allegations from the regulator have led to a string of senior management changes at the company, including the chief executive and chairman roles. Earlier this week, the bank announced that the head of its institutional bank was retiring.

A report from the advisory panel review into the charges noted that the directors could have recognised the systemic nature of the crimes the bank was facing earlier.

Westpac said it would continue to engage with AUSTRAC on the legal process.

Reporting by Shreya Mariam Job in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath and Anil D'Silva

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