Australian Regulator Accuses Westpac of Insider Trading in $12 Billion Grid Sale

Australia's corporate watchdog accused Westpac Banking Corp. of insider trading while financing a A$16 billion ($12 billion) energy grid privatisation in 2016, the latest in a series of regulatory problems for the country's No. 2 lender, Reuters reported. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) said Westpac knew it had won the contract to help two pension funds buy Ausgrid, a state-owned power supplier to millions of people around Sydney, for two hours while it bought A$12 billion of derivative products to support the deal. "The Ausgrid information was not generally available and it was information which, if generally available, a reasonable person would expect to have a material effect on the price or value of the traded products," ASIC said in a civil lawsuit filed on Wednesday. The lawsuit casts a fresh cloud over Westpac one day after it posted a tripling of first-half profit largely due to penalties it paid in the prior period to settle an unrelated regulator lawsuit accusing it of enabling millions of offshore payments, including to purveyors of child exploitation material. It also underscores the increased determination of Australia's financial regulators to take on big cases after they were accused in a 2018 public inquiry of being too cosy with the sector. Read more.