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Westpac fined $2.4 million in rate case, fraction of penalty sought

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Staff Writer | Friday November 9, 2018 7:04AM ET
Australia   Westpac's misconduct was serious and unacceptable

The Federal Court of Australia ordered Westpac Banking Corporation (Westpac) pay a pecuniary penalty of $3.3 million for contravening s12CC of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 (Cth) (ASIC Act) through its involvement in setting BBSW in 2010.

In reasons for making the pecuniary penalty order, Justice Beach noted the legislative constraint he had in imposing the order,

'If I had been permitted to do so I would have imposed a penalty of at least one order of magnitude above $3.3 million in order to discharge [the objectives of specific and general deterrence]. But I am not free do so.'

Justice Beach concluded in his reasons,

'Westpac's misconduct was serious and unacceptable…Westpac has not shown the contrition of the other banks. Moreover, imposing the maximum penalty is the only step available to me to achieve specific and general deterrence. The message that should be sent is that if you manipulate or attempt to manipulate key benchmark rates you are likely to have the maximum penalty imposed, whatever that is from time to time.'

The Court also ordered that an independent expert agreed between ASIC and Westpac be appointed to review whether Westpac's current systems, policies and procedures are appropriate, and to report back to ASIC within 9 months.

It was also ordered that Westpac pay ASIC's costs of and incidental to the penalty hearing as agreed and assessed.

Today's court orders follow Justice Beach's judgment, delivered on 24 May 2018, which found that Westpac on 4 dates in 2010 traded with a dominant purpose of influencing yields of traded Prime Bank Bills and where BBSW set in a way that was favourable to its rate set exposure. His Honour held that this was unconscionable conduct in contravention of s12CC of the ASIC Act. â– 


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