APRA gives ASIC enforcement powers for Westpac investigation

18 June 2020

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) has delegated certain enforcement powers to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in relation to investigations arising from AUSTRAC’s proceeding against Westpac for efficiency and to avoid duplication.

APRA said the two regulatory bodies determined there was potential for a significant overlap of the factual background as well as any legal contraventions under the Corporations Act 2001 and the Banking Act.

“To avoid both agencies separately investigating and potentially litigating related matters, ASIC will consider whether the conduct that it is investigating also gives rise to contraventions of the accountability obligations under the Banking Executive Accountability Regime and standards of fitness and propriety under the Banking Act,” APRA said.

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“APRA has delegated functions and powers to allow ASIC to apply to the courts for fines and disqualification of individuals as set out in subclause 1(1) of Schedule 2 and section 21 of the Banking Act with respect to these matters.

“This will allow ASIC to take court action which it considers appropriate as a result of its investigation. ASIC will, however, consult and collaborate with APRA in relation to any such proceedings.”

APRA said this would achieve greater efficiencies in the investigative process and a more co-ordinated regulatory outcome.

“It will avoid significant duplication in the investigative process, including compulsory examinations of the same individuals in respect of the same matters, and will avoid the potential for two sets of court proceedings for the same conduct. It is therefore likely to achieve a swifter and more effective regulatory response as a result,” it said.

The delegation would operate alongside APRA’s comprehensive supervisory review program focused on reviewing Westpac’s risk governance in detail, which APRA announced in December. The scope of the extensive review would include risk management, governance, accountability, remuneration and culture.

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