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Westpac to pay A$9.2M fine for adviser misconduct

Westpac Banking Corp. will need to pay a penalty of about A$9.2 million for breaches of the Corporations Act after one of its financial advisers failed to act in the best interests of his clients.

The Federal Court of Australia on Dec. 19 ordered the bank to pay the penalty with respect to 22 contraventions of the Corporations Act.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission brought the court case against Westpac in June 2018. ASIC's court case relates to poor financial advice provided by a former Westpac financial planner, Sudhir Sinha, in breach of the best interest duty and related obligations under the act.

According to internal Westpac reviews, there had been concerns about Sinha's compliance history but he continued to receive "high achievement" ratings from the bank. Sinha was dismissed by Westpac in 2014 but it was only in March 2015 that the bank reported his conduct to ASIC.

The court found that Sinha failed to act in the best interests of his clients and provided inappropriate financial advice.