Australia charges former local heads of Citi, Deutsche, ANZ for alleged cartel practices

Logo of New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ). (Reuters pic)

SYDNEY: Australian authorities have charged the former local bosses of Citigroup Inc and Deutsche Bank AG with “criminal cartel offences” over a $2.3 billion (RM9.1 billion) stock issue, one of the country’s biggest cases of alleged white-collar crime.

The tally of names disclosed on Tuesday showed the ambition of antitrust regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which revealed on Friday it planned to seek charges against the investment banks over a 2015 share-raising for Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (ANZ), plus ANZ itself.

The regulator said its charges over the share placement have been laid against Citi’s former Australia chairman Stephen Roberts, its current local head of capital markets John McLean and its London-based head of foreign exchange trading Itay Tuchman, along with Deutsche’s former local chief Michael Ormaechea and former local capital markets head Michael Richardson.

It said charges were also laid against ANZ, its treasurer Rick Moscati, as well as the two investment banks with the crimes.

“These serious charges are the result of an ACCC investigation that has been running for more than two years,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement. He declined to comment further since the matter was before the court.

ANZ, Citi and Deutsche have previously said they would defend the charges. After the names of the people being charged were released, Deutsche said it continued to believe it and its staff had acted responsibly, in the interests of clients and legally.

“Both Michael Ormaechea and Michael Richardson are highly regarded and have our full support,” a spokeswoman said in an email.

Citi, which has said the regulator appeared to have criminalised standard practices in capital raisings without warning, and ANZ was not immediately available for comment.

The charges, which can carry hefty fines and 10-year prison terms, could lead to changes in the way institutional capital raisings are handled, and do further damage to the reputation of Australian lenders already mired in scandal.

The placement was made when Australian banks were under pressure to meet new capital requirements, which prompted ANZ and the country’s biggest bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, to raise a combined A$8 billion (RM24 billion) in a single week.

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, which brought the charges on behalf of the ACCC, said further details would not be made public until after the first court appearance in Sydney on July 3.