World News – UA – Coonan changes tone on Crown money laundering as investors revolt


Crown Resorts president Helen Coonan defiantly told shareholders the company has not failed to prevent money laundering at its casinos, despite having conceded under oath two days ago that he had both facilitated and « activated » criminal activity

Ms Coonan made the statement at a murderous annual general meeting on Thursday in which investors launched a ‘first strike’ against the company and a major protest vote that sparked the resignation of the longtime director John Horvath

President of the Crown Helen Coonan and CEO Ken Barton have « apologized wholeheartedly » for the Crown’s failures Credit: Eamon Gallagher

Shareholder revolt follows months of damaging evidence in the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s probity probe into Crown, which detailed a series of serious governance and risk management failures and consider whether Crown should keep its Sydney casino license

Professor Horvath, who was once Kerry Packer’s personal physician, has said he will step down from the board after 31% of the vote opposed his re-election, meaning he didn’t survived the meeting only thanks to the support of James Packer, who owns 36 percent of the Crown

Independent director Sarah Halton said she was also considering stepping down after being hit by a 25% vote against re-election, but « overall » felt she had « enough support » to stay

The biggest protest vote (41%) was against Guy Jalland, a representative of M Packer who was involved in a sale of Crown shares to Melco Resorts last year that could have violated Crown’s NSW casino license

Crown hit with ‘first strike’ due to 34% protest vote against its executive compensation package Two consecutive strikes, or protest votes above 25%, can trigger a spill in full board

Ms Coonan said shareholders had sent a « clear and powerful message » that board renewal was needed and « changes will be made »

She apologized for the governance and risk management failures uncovered in the NSW probity inquiry and said her board « will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that we are learning from these mistakes « This including implementing a stronger anti-money laundering regime and improving corporate culture

However, Ms Coonan changed her tone significantly from the testimony she had provided to the ILGA inquiry two days earlier when she admitted to Commissioner Patricia Bergin that Crown had facilitated and « authorized » money laundering in its Melbourne casino due to « ineptitude » and « carelessness » of some employees

On Thursday she said she did not agree that « Crown failed to protect itself against money laundering »

« What I said in response to the investigation was that there may have been some suspicious business at Crown – it does not prove money laundering », said Ms Coonan

« There was perhaps a certain ineptitude of management in not noticing suspicious questions; which falls far short of not having protected the Crown against money laundering »

Financial crimes watchdog AUSTRAC said on Monday it had launched a law enforcement investigation into potential violations of anti-money laundering laws at Crown

The New South Wales investigation was sparked by a series of reports authored by this mast and 60 Minutes on how Crown facilitated money laundering at its Melbourne and Perth casinos, ignored evidence that its « junket » tour partners were involved in organized crime, and failed to protect its employees in China from arrest despite clear warning signs that they were in danger

Crown Managing Director Ken Barton apologized for giving a misleading response to last year’s AGM when an investor asked what information was being shared with main shareholder James Packer

As the ILGA survey examined in detail, Mr. Barton spoke at the meeting about a service agreement with private company M Packer, Consolidated Press Holdings, but made no mention of a separate agreement under which he sent financial updates to Mr. Pack almost every day

« Looking back, I recognize that my answer was not a complete answer to this question and I could have chosen a clearer way to answer this question. I apologize »

Mme Coonan and M Barton took office in January, replacing Executive Chairman John Alexander

Michael Johnston, another representative of Mr. Packer on the board, defended his ongoing role after the NSW investigation revealed how he failed to act on warning signs before 19 Crown workers were arrested in China in 2016

« I think it is appropriate that I remain on the board, » said M Johnston « There is no doubt that the investigation will lead to relevant conclusions »

Ms. Coonan supported M Johnston and M Jalland, saying they were « very experienced » and terminating information sharing agreements would address « perceived issues »

« The CPH shareholder needs to be managed appropriately – I think we have taken some steps to ensure this, » she said

Crown’s flagship Melbourne casino remains closed However, its Perth casino saw a 16% increase in gaming revenue between July 1 and October 18, Crown said on Thursday

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Crown Resorts, James Packer, Board of Directors

World News – UA – Coonan changes tone on Crown money laundering as investors revolt



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