ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott has defended his organisation’s decision to reinstate five bank bill swap rate (BBSW) traders prior to the conclusion of court action commenced by ASIC.
ANZ stood down seven traders within its institutional banking division in November 2014 after ASIC alerted the bank about behaviour within its BBSW team.
Two of the traders, Etienne Alexiou and Patrick O'Connor, were later sacked by the bank in September and October 2015, respectively.
The two sacked traders filed a lawsuit alleging there was a “toxic culture” within the ANZ institutional banking division that tolerated drugs, sex and alcohol – charges that were later dropped.
ASIC announced in March 2016 that it had commenced legal proceedings against ANZ for "unconscionable conduct and market manipulation” in the BBSW market between 2010 and 2012 – charges the bank said it would "rigorously defend".
But despite the ongoing ASIC court case, the five remaining ANZ traders placed on annual leave have been reinstated to their positions within the bank.
Appearing before the Standing Committee on Economics inquiry into the major banks yesterday, ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott said the bank’s internal investigation into the matter found the reinstated traders “did nothing wrong”.
“We had conversations with ASIC about these allegations, we did an internal review to see if there had been any internal wrongdoing,” Mr Elliott said.
“We looked at the transactions they’d made, the conversations they’d had, chats, emails et cetera. What we found as a result of that, testing against our standards, was that the majority of them had done nothing wrong.
“Two of them [Mr O'Connor and Mr Alexiou] had violated our code of conduct and we fired them.
“The others we reinstated because we had no reason to stand them down. From our standards and code of conduct they had done nothing wrong.”
Mr Elliott conceded the poor behaviour by Mr O'Connor and Mr Alexiou was only uncovered after ASIC’s concerns prompted an internal investigation of practices within the institutional banking division.
“We went and looked at millions of chat [logs] and conversations. In doing so, in order to satisfy ourselves around the ASIC questions, we found other things to do with poor behaviour and conduct,” Mr Elliott said.
ANZ has since changed some of its internal processes relating to employee behaviour and whistleblowing, he said.
“We’ve done a lot more ethics training in [the institutional banking] business. We’ve increased the monitoring of conversations – there were loopholes in some of that,” Mr Elliott said.
“We were monitoring email conversations for bad language, disrespectful comments, the code of conduct, et cetera – but we had missed these chat room [logs]. We’ve changed some of the processes. There was a failing.”
Regarding the allegations of adult entertainment and drug taking on the dealing room floor, Mr Elliott said, “We should remind ourselves who is making these allegations and that it is in their interests to make such allegations”.