November 22, 2019 / 1:11 AM / 17 days ago

Australian fund cuts Westpac bond exposure on money laundering allegations

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

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian bond fund has started to divest Westpac (WBC.AX) bonds following allegations by the country’s financial crime regulator of money laundering compliance breaches, some of which related to financing child exploitation.

Bill Bovingdon, chief investment officer of Altius Asset Management, which manages over A$2 billion ($1.36 billion), told Reuters its fund had downgraded the environmental, social and governance component of its credit risk score of Australia’s second-largest lender to “high” from “moderate”.

“As a consequence of this change we have commenced an orderly divestment of our Westpac Senior secured debt holdings,” Bovingdon said.

Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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