Corporate watchdog launches legal action against Westpac

A former Westpac financial planner has been accused of offering poor advice

The corporate watchdog ASIC has commenced civil proceedings against Australia's second-biggest bank Westpac, over alleged "poor" financial advice.

ASIC alleges that the bank identified compliance irregularities with the employee in 2014.

Australia's banks are under intense scrutiny as a year-long public inquiry into finance sector misconduct, now in its fifth month, airs nearly daily allegations wrongdoing.

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In Court documents filed on Thursday, the watchdog claimed Mr Sinha had "provided inappropriate financial advice, and failed to prioritise the interests of his clients".

Westpac have also been accused of not doing everything in its power to ensure financial services covered by its licence were provided "efficiently, honestly and fairly, and to comply with financial services laws".

ASIC contends, as Sinha's responsible licensee during that period, Westpac is liable for the alleged breaches of the "best interests" obligations by Sinha under section 961K of the Act.

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Westpac said it was reviewing the case and would cooperate with the regulator to resolve proceedings as soon as possible.

The year-long inquiry into the financial sector, called a Royal Commission, has heard evidence of fraud and allegations of board-level misconduct since it began in February, including misleading a regulator about allowing financial planners to charge for advice without giving it. Westpac has reported to ASIC that, as at 14 June 2018, it has paid approximately $12 million in compensation to clients impacted by Sinha's poor advice and ongoing advice service failures.

Westpac shares were not immediately affected by news of the fresh legal matter, trading up 1.8 percent in mid-afternoon, in line with the broader market .AXJO .

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