January 31, 2020 / 4:44 PM / 18 days ago

Westpac hit with class-action suit in U.S. linked to money-laundering case

FILE PHOTO: A pedestrian looks at his phone as he walks past a logo for Australia's Westpac Banking Corp located outside a branch in central Sydney, Australia, November 5, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo

(Reuters) - Australia’s No. 2 lender Westpac Banking Corp (WBC.AX) said on Saturday a class-action lawsuit, naming former Chief Executive Brian Hartzer and interim CEO Peter King as defendants, has been filed in a U.S. court on behalf of its shareholders.

The lender said the lawsuit represented purchasers of Westpac’s shares on the New York Stock Exchange between Nov. 11, 2015 to Nov. 19 and sought to recover damages related to disclosure issues with its financial crime monitoring and a recent money laundering scandal.

Australian financial crime watchdog AUSTRAC hit Westpac with a lawsuit in November, accusing it of 23 million breaches of anti-money laundering laws and facilitating payments between known child abusers.

After the bank’s two top executives stepped down following charges by the regulator, it appointed former Barclays (BARC.L) boss John McFarlane as chairman to steer it through the seething scandal.

The class action, filed by U.S.-based Rosen Law Firm, is for an unspecified amount, the company said, and cautioned that other similar lawsuits may follow.

In December, Australian law firm Phi Finney McDonald filed a court case over market disclosure issues connected to the bank’s monitoring of financial crime and the AUSTRAC proceedings.

Reporting By Rushil Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur

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