Australia’s securities regulator is probing Westpac Banking Corp. on allegations of insider trading, just months after the country’s second-biggest lender paid a record fine to settle breaches of anti-money laundering laws.
The corporate regulator has taken legal action accusing Westpac of insider trading over a $12bn interest rate swap linked to the part-privatisation in 2016 of New South Wales’s electricity distribution network, Ausgrid.
In a federal court lawsuit filed on Wednesday, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission accused Westpac of using inside information to trade in interest rate derivatives during the two hours before it executed the swap, which was the largest in Australian history.
It is the latest regulatory blow for the big bank, which in September last year agreed to pay a record $1.3bn fine to settle legal action over money laundering and child exploitation allegations levelled against it by the financial intelligence agency, Austrac.
Westpac also has recent form in the area of market manipulation – in 2018, the federal court found it had engaged in “serious and unacceptable” conduct by attempting to fix an interest rate benchmark, and fined it $3.3m, which was the maximum available under the law at the time.
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s securities regulator has contacted internet share trading forums to question them about policing of “pump and dump” scams on their platforms, a sign of growing scrutiny of an investment subculture that soared during pandemic lockdowns.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) told Reuters it has boosted surveillance of local retail trading internet chatrooms that have sprung up since the “WallStreetBets” Reddit chatroom was linked to wild U.S. stock fluctuations this year.
The securities regulator is looking out for illegal “naked” short selling by stock traders, in response to a rise in the number of investors failing to settle share trades during the recent financial market turbulence.
Naked short selling is illegal, and occurs when a short seller has executed a trade without a securities lending arrangement with a third party.
Companies with notable net short sales of their stock include Galaxy Resources (19 per cent), Syrah Resources (17.5 per cent), Metcash (13 per cent), Inghams Group (12.6 per cent), JB Hi-Fi (9.5 per cent), Costa Group (8.8 per cent), Myer (8.3 per cent), Perpetual (8.2 per cent), Bega Cheese (8 per cent), Bank of Queensland (7.8 per cent), Blackmores (7.8 per cent), Bendigo and Adelaide Bank (7.7 per cent), Webjet (7.7 per cent), Flight Centre (6.5 per cent), Kogan (6.5 per cent), Domino’s Pizza (6.2 per cent), Seek (6.2 per cent) and AMP (6.2 per cent) as of March 17, according to ASIC data.