Australia’s Westpac will not defend itself against regulator’s action on fees



a sign on the side of a building: FILE PHOTO: An office building with Westpac logo is seen in Sydney


© Reuters/Loren Elliott
FILE PHOTO: An office building with Westpac logo is seen in Sydney


(Reuters) – Westpac Banking Corp said on Thursday it would not defend itself in civil proceedings launched by Australia’s corporate regulator over fees charged to more than 400 clients.

The decision represents a small win for the regulator, which lost an appeal in June in a closely watched lawsuit against the scandal-hit bank for flouting the law on some home loan approvals.

In a statement, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) said two bank units, BT Funds Management and Asgard Capital Management, allegedly charged financial adviser fees to 404 customers and gave misleading account statements.

Between Sept. 2014 and August 2017, Asgard charged customers about A$130,006 ($93,383) for financial advice, despite requests to stop and even after the service ended, while account statements from BT omitted ‘adviser fees’ but added them to a separate fee amount, the regular said.

Westpac, which said it had reported the issue in 2017, and had contacted and remediated affected customers, added that it would make submissions regarding a penalty, however.

“BTFM and ACML apologise that these errors occurred and will work with ASIC to resolve the proceedings as quickly as possible,” the bank said on Thursday.

Westpac also faces a high-profile money-laundering action brought by another regulator.

($1=1.3920 Australian dollars)

(This story corrects to remove extraneous word “by” in paragraph 2)

(Reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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