Westpac has fought back against claims they were indifferent to their breach of money laundering laws following the resignation of CEO Brian Hartzer.
“Please don’t think that this bank has sat on its hands and had no attention to these matters for a couple of years,” Chairman Lindsay Maxsted said in a conference call with journalists and shareholders.
“The actual evidence is the exact opposite,” he said.
Mr Maxsted said that Mr Hartzer maintained a dialogue with Nicole Rose, CEO of AUSTRAC, following the regulator’s investigation into the Commonwealth Bank, but denied that Westpac had been warned about the risks of its LitePay product.
“There was no notification at that time that they were concerned about or had allegations that we may have been breaching in the way they’ve expressed themselves in the statement of claim,” Mr Maxsted said.
AUSTRAC accused Westpac’s senior management of “indifference” over the alleged 23 million breaches of money laundering law, an accusation that Mr Maxsted has repeatedly denied.
“I understood, absolutely, right from the start, how grave the situation was,” Mr Maxsted said in the call.
Mr Maxsted also touched upon Mr Hartzer’s decision to step down, acknowledging that the bank’s response plan had not been enough to reassure stakeholders.
“It became very apparent to me and the rest of the board that the best interest of the company was to go down this particular route, and that’s what we’ve done.”
Mr Maxsted said that statements by Mr Hartzer reported in The Australian – where the erstwhile CEO said that the AUSTRAC allegations were not a “major issue” for mainstream Australia – were “disappointing” but needed to be “read in context”.
Mr Maxsted is now set to retire in early 2020.