A day after he was announced as a member of the board of the combined Perpetual and Pendal group, Ben Heap has been named as one of the 11 current and former directors and officers of The Star Entertainment Group targeted by ASIC as part of its civil penalty proceedings over alleged breaches of their duties under section 180 of the Corporations Act.
Namely, according to the regulator, Pendal’s non-executive director, Mr Heap, was allegedly involved in approving the expansion of Star’s relationship with certain individuals with reported criminal links between 2017 and 2019.
The other current and former directors named by ASIC include John O’Neill (former chair), Matthias Bekier (former managing director and CEO), Kathleen Lahey, Richard Sheppard, Gerard Bradley, Sally Pitkin and Zlatko Todorcevski.
The regulator also alleges that board members, when provided with information about money laundering risks affecting Star, did not take steps to make further enquiries of management about those critical risks and that this was a breach of their director duty obligations.
Commenting on the proceedings, ASIC deputy chair Sarah Court said: “ASIC alleges that Star’s board and executives failed to give sufficient focus to the risks of money laundering and criminal associations, which are inherent in the operation of a large casino with an international customer base.”
Moreover, ASIC alleges that Mr Bekier and Star executives Paula Martin (former company secretary and group general counsel) and Greg Hawkins (former chief casino officer) breached their duties by failing to adequately address the money laundering risks that arose from dealing with Asian gambling junket Suncity and its funder, as well as by continuing to deal with them despite becoming aware of reports of criminal links, and by not appropriately escalating money laundering issues to the board.
As for Ms Martin and Harry Theodore (former chief financial officer), ASIC also alleges they knowingly permitted misleading statements being provided to NAB regarding the use of debit cards issued by China UnionPay International (CUP) at NAB ATMs located on Star’s premises. Those statements allegedly disguised the fact that Star was permitting CUP cards to be used for gambling, which was prohibited by CUP.
ASIC Chair Joe Longo said the role of directors is critical to a company’s general standing and performance, including how it deals with significant issues.
“As I’ve said on many occasions, directors and officers are a critical part of the conduct of business in Australia. Their duty is to understand the operations of the company over which they preside, and the particular risks faced by the business. They are required to bring an inquiring mind to business operations. It is not ‘set and forget.”
Heap named to Perpetual, Pendal board
In naming Mr Heap to the board, Perpetual said he is based in Australia and is “an experienced company director with wide-ranging experience in asset and capital management roles in the finance sector and in technology and digital businesses”.
He is a founding partner of H2 Ventures, a privately held venture capital investment firm, and is the independent chairman of CBA New Digital Businesses, a subsidiary of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. He is also chairman of The Star Entertainment Group.
Pendal declined to comment when approached by InvestorDaily.