Westpac hires Promontory to run AML review

Westpac hires Promontory to run AML review

Westpac has hired IBM subsidiary Promontory to undertake an independent review into the failings that led to the bank breaching AML/CTF laws on over 23 million occasions.

The appointment was made by a newly-annointed Westpac Board Financial Crime Committee, chaired by non-executive director Peter Nash.

The Board has been set up in the wake of a stream of serious and damaging allegations over Westpac's inadequacies in dealing with financial crime. The breakdown in trust has already claimed the scalp of chief executive Brian Hartzer and forced the early retirement of chairman Lindsay Maxsted.

Promontory's first task will be to review the issues with LitePay, the money transfer product that was used by paedophile networks to send payments to the Philippines, without raising any red flags.

The bank is facing a massive reputational hit over the allegations, and in particular claims made that LitePay was introduced specifically as a means to circumvent Swift MT202 COV obligations, which allow banks and their regulators to trace the senders and recipients of international wire transfers.

Austrac's investigation into the Westpac case made it clear that Westpac’s decision to offer services such as LitePay and the Australasian Cash Management (ACM) platform were designed to bypass the international banking network.

“Westpac considered that the Swift payment network was costly and not an efficient means of sending low value, large volume payments for clients of global banks that need to make and receive payments around the world,” the regulator has alleged.

Commenting on its appointment, Promontory practice leader Jeff Carmichael says: “Governments and financial institutions all around the world are grappling with the complexities associated with both monitoring and managing the reporting of suspicious activity given the huge volumes of transactions taking place every day.

“As we have seen with the Westpac matter, the implications of systems, personnel or governance failings around financial crime can be very serious.”

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