Australian banks get silver medal for fines
13 Jan 2021

Australian banks continued to punch above their weight in 2020, racking up the second-highest total of fines from regulators by value after the United States.

A survey of fines handed out to banks over the 12 months has placed US banks at the top of the pile for infringements, accounting for a whopping $US11.1 billion, or $14.42 billion, worth of fines, while Australian banks recorded a mere $US1 billion or $1.3 billion.

Coming in just under the big whacks paid by US mega-banks is Westpac, for its $1.3 billion settlement with financial intelligence regulator AUSTRAC for failing to report over 19.5 million international funds transfers and turning a blind eye to transactions that may have involved child exploitation.

Among the other eye-watering fines paid by banks around the world in 2020 were Israel’s largest bank Bank Hapoalim, which agreed to pay $1.2 billion for hiding customer funds from the IRS in secret accounts in Israel, and Switzerland and Swedbank’s $550 million fine for deficiencies in its anti-money laundering program.

Breaches of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws were a feature of the list of the biggest fines, as banks struggled to bring legacy systems up to speed and regulators pursued violations with enthusiasm.

In 2018, Commonwealth Bank agreed to pay what was then an almost-unimaginable $700 million fine after breaches relating to its ATM network were discovered to have been exploited by criminal syndicates trafficking drugs.

By James Frost, The Australian Financial Review, 12 January 2021

Read more at The Australian Financial Review

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