August 8, 2019 / 5:52 AM / 13 days ago

Australia Westpac fined for late data reporting as regulator toughens stance

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a Westpac bank branch in Sydney, Australia April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

(Reuters) - Australia’s financial watchdog fined Westpac Banking Corp (WBC.AX) and two of its units on Thursday for failing to report data to the watchdog on time, weeks after a government report called on the regulator to take tougher action on misconduct.

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) said Westpac and its units will have to pay a fine of A$1.5 million ($1.02 million), the maximum payable for the breach.

Westpac and its two units were late in submitting data pertaining to financial statistics for the quarter ended March 31, and for the month of March. The units were also late in April, APRA said in a statement.

“APRA wants to send a strong message to industry that compliance with our reporting standards is mandatory, and cannot be considered secondary to other business priorities,” APRA Deputy Chair John Lonsdale said.

An independent government report last month told the regulator to be more forceful, and added that the body may need more resources to help it.

Westpac, in an emailed statement, said it now has processes in place to deliver all required data by the APRA on time and it “regrets” not doing so in the incidents mentioned.

APRA’s move highlights the scrutiny regulators have come under recently to take a larger and more proactive role in cleaning up the country’s financial sector after widespread wrongdoing was found by a year-long inquiry.

Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Paulina Duran; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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