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10 February 2021

Independent Senator Rex Patrick has called for the resignation of former Liberal Senator Helen Coonan as chair of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).

“Ms Coonan’s dual roles as AFCA chair and chair of the Crown Resorts board were problematical before the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority determined that Crown is unfit to hold a casino licence,” Senator Patrick said.  

"The ILGA report released yesterday made damning findings about Crown Resort's management failures during the more than a decade during which Ms Coonan has served on its board. In light of that report Ms Coonan should immediately relinquish her position as head of the AFCA."

Allegations of money laundering through Crown Resorts’ casino operations were first raised publicly by an ABC Four Corners investigation in 2014, by independent Federal MP Andrew Wilkie in 2017, and again by Fairfax Media investigations in 2019. Those matters included numerous allegations of serious criminal misconduct.

Amongst many other things, the ILGA report has condemned the Crown board’s ‘corporate arrogance’; finding that ‘One of the difficulties for Crown was its unjustified belief in itself and its unwillingness to entertain the prospect that there was any force in any of the Media allegations.’

Senator Patrick said: “This is precisely the wrong mindset for someone serving as chair of the AFCA, an organisation that is intended to provide an external dispute resolution scheme for consumers and small businesses who are unable to resolve complaints against the practices of Australia’s big banks and other financial institutions.

“In her capacity as AFCA chair, Ms Coonan has been highly critical of the culture and practices of Australia’s banks including ‘in many cases, arrogant indifference to regulatory and compliance risk’.”

“Yet such a finding has now been made against Crown Resorts.”

“Two other Crown Resorts directors have now resigned. Whether or not Ms Coonan resigns from Crown is a matter for her and the company’s board and shareholders, but she should most certainly resign from the AFCA now. Otherwise the credibility of that financial watchdog will be severely diminished.”