The Australian Government introduces the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Combatting Corporate Crimes) Bill 2019 (Cth) targeting corporate misconduct and foreign bribery

Recently, three of Australia's four largest banks have self-reported breaches of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws. Commonwealth Bank of Australia in 2018 admitted fault and agreed to pay a civil penalty of AU$700 million for 53,506 breaches of Australia’s money laundering laws. The penalty imposed at the time was the largest in Australian corporate history.

Against a backdrop of widely reported corporate misconduct with high penalties attached, the Commonwealth Government intends to legislate to provide for a more efficient and effective self-reporting mechanism for companies. The first objective of the Government’s policy initiative and legislative scheme is that if a company voluntarily admits certain facts associated with corporate misconduct (not guilt), they may receive the benefit of the ability to negotiate an out of court civil penalty and receive no substantial criminal sanction. A second objective is to introduce the new offence of failing to prevent foreign bribery.

The need for an alternate system has arisen due to the opaque and complex nature of modern corporate crime that has made it difficult for regulators to achieve convictions. Corporate crime including foreign bribery is often difficult to identify and easy to conceal in complicated structures and transactions. Associated investigations into corporate misconduct can be complex, difficult and time consuming.

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