Unfit Westpac Directors urged to keep thinking about the children they have harmed

Experienced Chair and Non-Executive Director, Ruth Medd, has spoken out ahead of the Westpac AGM, saying the directors of Westpac are “clearly not fit for purpose having collectively presided over what has become a catastrophe.”
Ms Medd, who co-founded Women on Boards with Claire Braund, made the remarks as a long -term shareholder and advocate for women in the boardroom.

She said she would be voting against the re-election of Ms Nerida Caesar and Mr Peter Marriott and would have voted against the re-election of Mr Ewen Crouch, had he not stepped aside.

She said of the scandal that has erupted following the disclosure of 29 million legal breaches to AUSTRAC, has shown a blatant disregard for ethical culture and behaviour.

“I read with interest the message from Chairman in the Notice of Meeting and inferred that remuneration of senior staff and the board has become a proxy for culture at Westpac. “

“For example: You have presided over a culture where a junior technology employee in Westpac’s Global Transaction Services division did not think it appropriate to report that money transfers with Standard Chartered Bank were not being reported to AUSTRAC; and one where the compliance manager who reported the legal breaches was then moved on in favour of someone with ‘more experience’.”

“The bottom line is that by your inaction, your disregard for proper process, your inability to learn from the experiences of others like the CBA and your inability to appreciate changing regulatory flows, you have brought our company into disrepute.”

Ms Medd went onto ask what the board was doing if, as the Chairman, Lindsay Maxsted acknowledged in a press conference on 26 November, the board and senior management ‘didn’t have enough focus on operational risk and compliance matters.’

“All directors are on the Risk Committee. Clearly your collective wisdom and judgement was insufficient to discharge your obligations as committee members.”
  • Oversight of risk management
  • Going beyond what the executives are telling you to looking at emerging risks.
  • Using your worldly experiences to anticipate issues.
  • Appreciating the relationship needed with your regulators and the changing remit of these bodies and yourself as the world globalises apace.
“Were you so arrogant/ unaware or asleep that you did not take prompt action after CBA were fined $700m?”
Ms Medd said the longer serving Westpac directors, those appointed prior to the start of 2018/19 should consider their positions, namely Alison Deans, Craig Dunne and Peter Nash.

“While you are doing that think about the children who have been harmed. And keep thinking about it.“

Westpac averted a second strike motion to spill the board with the backing of major investors. All directors up for re-election survived with the backing of institutional investors. Chair Lindsay Maxstead said the board has taken a 20% pay cut and reduced "some" short-term bonuses to zero.
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