Commonwealth Bank files response to Austrac claims

Source: Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Commonwealth Bank (CBA) today filed our response to the civil proceedings commenced by AUSTRAC on 3 August 2017.

In our response filed today, we contest a number of allegations but admit others, including the allegations relating to the late submission of 53,506 threshold transaction reports (TTRs), which were all caused by the same single systems-related error.

The Defence focuses on key factual and legal matters in the claim. CBA confirms that in our Defence we:

• agree that we were late in filing 53,506 TTRs, which all resulted from the same systems-related error, representing 2.3% of TTRs reported by CBA to AUSTRAC between 2012 and 2015;
• agree that we did not adequately adhere to risk assessment requirements for Intelligent Deposit Machines (IDMs) - but do not accept that this amounted to eight separate contraventions - and agree we did not adhere to all our transaction monitoring requirements in relation to certain affected accounts;
• admit 91 (in whole or in part) but deny a further 83 of the allegations concerning suspicious matter reports (SMRs);
• admit 52 (in whole or in part) but deny a further 19 allegations concerning ongoing customer due diligence requirements.

Further detail can be found in CBA’s Concise Statement in Response.

We continue to fully cooperate with AUSTRAC in relation to our obligations under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (Cth) (AML/CTF Act) and respect its role as a regulator. The nature of the regime involves continuous liaison and collaboration with the regulator as risks are identified. As such we are in an ongoing process of sharing information with the regulator.

AUSTRAC has indicated that it proposes to file an amended statement of claim containing additional alleged contraventions. If an amended claim is served on us, we expect the court would set a timetable for CBA to file an amended defence. We will provide market updates as appropriate.

We take our anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) obligations extremely seriously. We deeply regret any failure to comply with these obligations. CBA is accountable for those deficiencies.

We understand that as a bank we play a key role in law enforcement. AUSTRAC’s former CEO has publicly acknowledged our contribution in this regard. We have invested heavily in seeking to fulfil the crucial role we play. CBA has spent more than $400 million on AML/CTF compliance over the past eight years. We will continue to invest heavily in our systems relating to financial crimes thereby supporting law enforcement in detecting and disrupting financial crime.

During the period of the claim, CBA submitted more than 36,000 SMRs, including 140 in relation to the syndicates and individuals referred to in AUSTRAC’s claim.

In the same period we submitted more than 17 million reports in aggregate, including SMRs, TTRs and in respect of international funds transfer instructions. CBA will submit over 4 million reports to AUSTRAC in this year alone.

CBA also responds to large numbers of law enforcement requests for assistance each year, including approximately 20,000 requests this year. Some of the information provided directly resulted in disrupting money laundering and terrorism financing activity and prosecuting individuals.

Any penalty imposed by the Court as a result of the mistakes we have made will be determined in accordance with established penalty principles. For example, the Court may consider whether any contraventions arise out of the same course of conduct and will assess the appropriate penalty for that conduct accordingly, as it recently did in the Tabcorp decision.

CBA’s submissions at trial will also highlight steps that we have taken since 2015 as part of our Program of Action to strengthen and improve our financial crimes compliance.

Program of Action

CBA has made significant progress in strengthening our policies, processes and systems relating to its obligations under the AML/CTF Act through our Program of Action. While this is a continuing process of improvement, progress achieved since the issues concerning TTRs associated with IDMs were first identified and rectified in late 2015, includes:

• Boosting AML/CTF capability and reporting by hiring additional financial crime operations, compliance and risk professionals. As at 30 June 2017, before the claim was filed, CBA employed over 260 professionals dedicated to financial crimes operations, compliance and risk.
• Strengthening our Know Your Customer processes with the establishment in 2016 of a specialist hub providing consistent and high-quality on-boarding of customers, at a cost of more than $85 million.
• Launching an upgraded financial crime technology platform used to monitor accounts and transactions for suspicious activity.
• Adding new controls such as using enhanced digital electronic customer verification processes to supplement face-to-face identification to reduce the risk of document fraud.

The Program of Action has also addressed issues that AUSTRAC alleges were ongoing contraventions in its claim. For example, CBA recently introduced daily limits for IDMs deposits for CBA cards associated with a personal account. We understand CBA is the first major Australian bank to implement a control of this type.

CBA is committed to continuing to strengthen our financial crimes compliance and to working closely with regulators across all jurisdictions in which we operate to fight financial crime.

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