Westpac Bank – shall one of the four pillars fall?

Then we’d own those banks of marble
With a guard at every door
And we’d share those vaults of silver
That workers sweated for

– ‘The Banks are Made of Marble’ composed by Les Rice, apple farmer.

Accountants across Australia looked cautiously when the Banking Royal Commission decided to investigate AMP. They knew already how AMP was ripping-off its customers. Sure enough, Royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne unveiled AMP’s fees-for-no-service fraud, which he labelled ‘dishonest and inexcusable‘.

Then came revelations about the Commonwealth Bank, privatised by Labor Treasurer, Paul Keating, in the late 1980s. The bank was fined $$$millions.

When the regulator accused Westpac of lending money to people who could not afford it, Westpac’s barrister Jeremy Kirk SC mockingly accused the regulator, ASIC, of living in the 19th century:

“Mr Dickens, what’s your income and what are your expenses?”

And now the biggest fraudster of all turns out to be the Westpac Bank (formerly the Bank of New South Wales, Australia’s first bank) – exposed as refusing to report 23 million transactions. The regulator has accused Westpac of breaching of anti-money laundering laws involving $11bn in transactions.

In West End Brisbane, unconscionable transactions by the local branch of Westpac have been known for some time. Six hundred Westenders petitioned their local Labor member, Anna Bligh, asking that the Public Trustee bring the bank to account for its “unconscionable behaviour in its dealings with an elderly man who had lost his wife, suffered a life threatening heart attack and who was not apprised of the risks of the loan transaction that enabled the bank to sell AHIMSA house.

Ms Bligh was advised by Taylor’s enduring power of attorney that, in May 2007, Challenger Commercial Lending Limited (“Challenger”) extended a $1.295 million loan to Mr Taylor when he was unable to repay interest on a loan nearly half the size ($720K). This was an unconscionable transaction. By January 2009, Mr Taylor was in default of the Challenger loan. Mr Taylor was talked into the transaction by ‘financial advisors’ Barry Sims, Brian Laver and Will Marcus.

Westpac-owned-Challenger bank called in the receivers who sold 24-26 Horan Street West End for less than half ($1,072,500) what it was worth ($2.5M) in 2011.

AHIMSA house sold 24-26 Horan Street West End for less than half what it was worth in 2011.

In 2011, the financial affairs of the owner of AHIMSA house, Carl Ross Taylor, were controlled by Peter Carne, the Public Trustee of Queensland, currently suspended by the Attorney General for misconduct.

Westpac had passed a fraudulent cheque of $168,032 by Brian Lennard Laver and Will Marcus to pay off Marcus’s mortgage at another property in West End. The money was fraudulently taken from Carl Ross Taylor by Laver and Marcus with the assistance of Challenger Bank. Subsequently the building was sold to the Queensland Education Department for $2.8M for extensions to West End Primary School.

This transaction and others relating to a federal government grant of $50K for a water tank that was never built was reported to the Westpac’s Ed Mansfield, a Business Loan Consultant, by Taylor’s Enduring Power of Attorney, Bernie Neville. No action on the fraud was ever taken by Westpac.

When these matters went before the Supreme Court of Queensland on 12 September 2012, Martin J acted on “meticulously careful and sage advice” by Mr Fraser QC; that being, to do nothing. Mr Justice Martin gave the following judgement:

“To pursue these matters would be a burden on a man of impaired capacity such as Mr Taylor. It would expose him to the travails of litigation with no possibility of any actual advantage to him apart from the prospect of a victory which would be Pyrrhic.”

Sign outside AHIMSA house in 24 Horan St West End

So it is little wonder that: “Westpac has been accused … of breaching Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism finance laws 23 million times, including failing to properly vet thousands of transactions that could be linked to child exploitation and live child sex shows in the Philippines and other parts of south-east Asia.” – SMH 21 Nov 2019

The Queensland Attorney-General, Yvette D’Ath, should have laid charges against the perpetrators long ago, but she, like others before her, has done nothing.

Can Westpac survive the allegations levelled against it? Will one of the four pillars fall?

In setting up the royal commission in November 2017 then Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said:

It will not put capitalism on trial” .

In this country at least, capitalism is not even on trial.

Ian Curr
21 Nov 2019


One response to “Westpac Bank – shall one of the four pillars fall?

  1. Interviewer: Can you please introduce yourself?

    ANNA BLIGH*: I’m Anna Bligh, former Premier of Queensland?

    Interviewer: Can you tell listeners a little about yourself, where did you grow up?

    ANNA BLIGH: I was born in Warwick and went to school at Broadbeach State School on the Gold Coast even though I was a Catholic. I was a surfie chick, not really very sophisticated but went to University of Queensland and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree.

    Interviewer: What made you interested in politics?

    ANNA BLIGH: In my first year at Uni in 1978, I saw people being hit over the head by police in a right-to-march demonstration in King George Square.

    Interviewer: So what did you do?

    ANNA BLIGH: I joined the Women’s Rights Collective which campaigned for legalised abortion against the policies of the Bjelke-Petersen government.

    Interviewer: And then what?

    ANNA BLIGH: I was elected Women’s Vice-President of the Student Union and tried to oust the faction running the union led by David Barbagallo and Paul Lucas.

    Interviewer: Weren’t they later in your cabinet when you became Premier?

    ANNA BLIGH: Paul is now the Deputy Premier and David is the Premier’s CEO.

    Interviewer: What was your biggest achievement as Premier?

    ANNA BLIGH: Privatising the coal carrying section of Queensland Rail.

    Interviewer: I was not expecting that as an answer. I thought you would say being the first popularly elected female head of government. Privatising Queensland Rail made you very unpopular with the unions?

    ANNA BLIGH: Yes, but it was important to bring Queensland Rail into the 21st century as an efficient system for exporting coal and other minerals.

    Interviewer: 3,000 rail workers lost their jobs only 3 months after you privatised Queensland Rail. How do you feel about the unions now?

    ANNA BLIGH: Sections of the union movement wrecked my government, they are often unaccountable and engage in unlawful bullying activity.

    Interviewer: Which are worse, unions or banks?

    ANNA BLIGH: How do you mean?

    Interviewer: Banks provide loans to people who can’t pay them back and confiscate their property. They charge fees where no service is given. They have been involved in money laundering activities.

    ANNA BLIGH: As CEO of the Australian Banking Association I can assure listeners that banks have responded to that criticism and put in place tougher lending guidelines.

    Interviewer: But the regulator AUSTRAC is prosecuting WestPac bank for 23 million transactions involving $11 billion?

    ANNA BLIGH: That is most regrettable.

    Interviewer: Which? The prosecution or the unlawful activity by the bank?

    ANNA BLIGH: Malcolm Turnbull set up the Banking Royal Commission and we have been supporting Commissioner Hayne in the very difficult job he has been given.

    Interviewer: Australia’s four major banks dominate the financial services industry in this country. Will the findings of the Royal Commission bring down the four pillars of banking?

    ANNA BLIGH: Australia needs a more competitive financial system and popular support for credit unions is testimony to that.

    Interviewer: Is the banking royal commission putting capitalism on trial?

    ANNA BLIGH: No, Malcolm Turnbull promised that it wouldn’t and I think we are seeing some important reforms coming out of the royal commission.

    Interviewer: Turnbull would say that wouldn’t he, he was a merchant banker?
    Do you recall that your last act as Premier before your government was defeated by the biggest landslide in Queensland history, that you tabled a petition criticising unconscionable transactions by the local West End branch of the Westpac bank?

    ANNA BLIGH: No, I don’t recall.

    Interviewer: I think that we should leave it there.

    *[Anna Bligh was played by a voice actor]


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