Australia: Climate change groups call on Westpac to stop financing fossil fuel projects

Author: Graham Readfearn & Ben Butler, The Guardian, Published on: 18 April 2020

"Westpac urged to stop supporting projects that boost fossil fuel industry", 14 April 2020

More than 50 climate change and environment groups have written to Westpac's new boss, Peter King, saying the bank's expected revision of its climate policy should rule out backing projects that increase the size of the fossil fuel industry.
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The demands from climate groups come as King...set aside more than $1.4bn in provisions for costs and writedowns of assets, including more than $1bn in costs related to legal action brought against it by the government's financial intelligence agency, Austrac.The $1bn figure includes a $900m provision to pay any potential fine levied by the federal court, but Westpac told the stock exchange the actual figure "may be materially higher or lower than the provision".

King's predecessor, Brian Hartzer, and chairman, Lindsay Maxsted, both lost their jobs over the Austrac lawsuit, in which the regulator accused the bank of more than 23m breaches of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism finance laws, including sending money to pay for suspected child exploitation in the Phillipines.

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King said in a statement to the ASX: "In addition to closing relevant products and recruiting an additional 200 people in financial crime and compliance, I am putting in place a clearer accountability regime that will speed up decision making, improve implementation and more clearly define responsibility and its associated risk management."

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Related companies: Westpac