Westpac to brief regulator on alleged Forum fraud

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Westpac is preparing to provide the prudential regulator with details on its $294 million fraud case against Forum Finance in the coming weeks.

Within the next four weeks, Westpac execs will meet with the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority to give a comprehensive explanation of how the bank was victimised by the alleged fraud, according to a report by The Australian. Westpac will also tell APRA how it intends to respond to and repair any system weaknesses that may have made the fraud possible.

Westpac has also been communicating with financial crimes regulator AUSTRAC due to the international flow of funds in and out of Forum Finance and its related entities, The Australian reported.

The bank is reportedly engaging global law firms to execute international asset freezing orders against Forum and its chief, Bill Papas, as the orders need to be overseen in different jurisdictions. Westpac is expected to make use of European Union treaties and take action against Forum in Greece due to assets there.

Papas has reportedly been in Greece for several weeks. He was supposed to return to Australia earlier this month, but his lawyer told the Federal Court that he was constrained from travelling due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Last week, Federal Court Justice Michael Lee ordered Papas to outline his plans to return to Australia and to disclose his assets, The Australian reported. This followed Papas’ failure to comply with earlier court orders, angering Lee.

“I don’t make orders on the basis that they can be treated like traffic lights in Athens,” Lee said at a hearing last week. “I want them complied with.”

Read more: Alleged Forum fraudsters in property-buying spree

Westpac prepares to meet with APRA about the case while already on thin ice with the regulator, according to The Australian. APRA found that the bank had an “immature and reactive risk culture, unclear accountabilities,” and lax compliance with liquidity rules. Westpac entered an enforceable undertaking to address those issues and was forced to hold more capital.

Many of the issues related to Westpac’s millions of breaches of anti-money laundering rules, The Australian reported. The bank was forced to pay a record $1.3 billion penalty last year over the issue.

Ryan SmithRyan Smith is currently an executive editor at Key Media, where he started as a journalist in 2013. He has since he worked his way up to managing editor and is now an executive editor. He edits content for several B2B publications across the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. He also writes feature content for trade publications for the insurance and mortgage industries.
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