Treasurer Scott Morrison believes the actions taken against Commonwealth Bank and ANZ show the government and regulators are no “light touch” when it comes to financial sector wrongdoing.
Days after CBA was stung with a record $700 million settlement over its lack of oversight on money laundering, the ANZ – along with Deutsche Bank and Citibank executives – were charged with cartel conduct relating to a $2.5 billion share placement.
Mr Morrison said these are very serious charges against the ANZ and the two international banks that have been pursued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
“Under this government, we’ve had very focused, very determined regulators doing their job,” Mr Morrison told Sky News on Wednesday.
“I don’t think anyone can say under this government there has been any sort of light touch from our regulators.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the coalition was determined to stamp out bad conduct.
“We will ensure that those who have done the wrong thing are held to account through the legal system,” he told reporters in Charleville.
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said the charges were possible because the Rudd Labor government had outlawed cartel conduct, despite resistance from the coalition.
“This is a stark reminder for all in business of the consequences of potential cartel conduct,” Mr Bowen told reporters in Sydney.
But the government had “dropped the ball” by fighting Labor’s calls to have a royal commission into the financial sector.
Mr Morrison defended the government’s decision to not rush into a royal commission.
“If we had just waited for the commission to finish its work before we started any of this, that wouldn’t have been a government focused on the real issues,” he said.
There are concerns the findings of the royal commission could result in tighter lending conditions – a risk that was highlighted in the federal budget.
“The commission will take its course, but the response to it is what is really going to be the issue, and we have got to be careful that we don’t create a self-fulfilling problem,” Mr Morrison said.
The treasurer said he didn’t want to undermine the banking system by creating unnecessary regulation that “restricts and suffocates” economic growth.