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Westpac faces ‘unprecedented’ ASIC action

ASIC has launched a barrage of Federal Court actions against Westpac.

ASIC has launched a barrage of Federal Court actions against Westpac.

The corporate regulator has taken the unprecedented step of launching multiple legal actions at once against one of Australia’s big four banks.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has hit Westpac with six civil penalty proceedings in the Federal Court, which could draw a combined penalty of more than $100 million.

The actions follow separate ASIC investigations conducted in 2021, resulting in allegations of widespread compliance failures across multiple Westpac businesses.

These include its banking, superannuation and wealth management brands and the former general insurance business.

The alleged conduct – mostly involving “poor systems, poor processes and poor governance” – occurred over many years and affected many thousands of consumers, ASIC said.

“It is unprecedented for ASIC to file multiple proceedings against the same respondent at the same time,” ASIC deputy chair Sarah Court said on Tuesday.

“However, these were exceptional circumstances … and we decided to expedite those matters for consideration by the court at the earliest opportunity.”

Westpac admitted the allegations in each of the proceedings and would remediate about $80 million to customers, ASIC said.

ASIC and Westpac will also submit to the court that combined penalties of more than $100 million “are appropriate”.

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