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Westpac's CEO is stepping down amid claims the bank violated anti-money laundering laws

Sharon Masige
  • Westpac CEO Brian Hartzer has stepped down amid allegations that the bank violated money laundering laws.
  • Last week financial crime regulator AUSTRAC claimed the bank violated anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism laws more than 23 million times.
  • The bank's current CFO Peter King will be taking over as acting CEO from Monday December 2.
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Westpac's CEO has resigned.

Brian Hartzer is stepping down as CEO of Westpac Group, the company announced on Tuesday. The bank's current CFO Peter King will be taking over as acting CEO from Monday December 2.

It comes after Westpac was alleged to have violated anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism laws more than 23 million times in just five years.

Last week, financial crime regulator AUSTRAC alleged that the bank continually failed to follow anti-money laundering laws and thus allowed money suspected to have been funding child exploitation to flow freely.

“Westpac failed to... carry out appropriate customer due diligence on transactions to the Philippines and South East Asia that have known financial indicators relating to potential child exploitation risks,” AUSTRAC said in a statement at the time.

“Westpac failed to introduce appropriate detection scenarios to detect known child exploitation typologies, consistent with AUSTRAC guidance and their own risk assessments.”

Hartzer said in a statement, "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."

Westpac Group Chairman Lindsay Maxsted said the board "accepts the gravity of the issues raised by AUSTRAC."

"As was appropriate, we sought feedback from all our stakeholders including shareholders and having done so it became clear that board and management changes were in the best interest of the bank," Maxsted said in a statement.

As acting CEO, King is tasked with two main priorities: implementing a "Westpac Response Plan" and to continue to "execute the group's broader strategy"

"We are determined to urgently fix these issues and lift our standards to ensure our anti-money laundering and other financial crime prevention processes are industry leading," Maxsted said.

Westpac also said it will begin an independent review.