Commonwealth Bank admits anti-money laundering breaches


AUSTRAC, the federal government's financial intelligence unit, has updated its statement of claim against Commonwealth Bank with another 100 alleged contraventions of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing law - taking the total to more than 53,800.

Earlier, CBA said the Federal Court should treat more than 53,506 instances where it failed to lodge reports on time as one breach of anti-money laundering laws when determining an "appropriate" penalty for the bank. A class action has also been filed.

CBA has attempted to shore up investor support following the AUSTRAC allegations, including shaking up its board and slashing executive bonuses.

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The CBA has also conceded it "did not adequately" assess the risks posed by the rollout of its new deposit machines, saying it should have introduced daily limits on the machines and the use of certain bank cards through them.

CBA on Wednesday night filed its defence in response to Austrac's allegations of repeated and serious breaches of Australia's anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws.

It also flagged some of the arguments it would make in court, where it is likely to be slapped with a hefty fine.

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The bank is contesting a number of allegations but admit others, including the allegations relating to the late submission of 53,506 threshold transaction reports which were all caused by the same single systems-related error.

"During the period of the claim, CBA submitted more than 36,000 suspicious matter reports, including 140 in relation to the syndicates and individuals referred to in AUSTRAC's claim", the bank said. TTRs are reports of large money transfers that banks must submit to the agency.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, or Austrac, in all now alleges over 53,800 contraventions of the act, each of which carries a maximum penalty of up to 21 million Australian dollars (US$16 million). Those changes were introduced last month.

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"CBA admits that at various times between about 20 October 2012 and 12 October 2015, due to an error in the process of merging data from two systems, its account level automated transaction monitoring did not operate as intended in respect of 778,370 accounts", the bank wrote in its claim.