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ANZ cartel case prompts ASX resignation

Chairman of J.P. Morgan Australia Robert Priestley has resigned from the ASX board, effective immediately, citing the “distraction” of the ACCC’s investigation into alleged banking cartel behaviour as the reason.

Mr Priestley has immediately resigned from the ASX board, attributing his decision to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) ongoing investigation into alleged cartel behaviour involving ANZ, Citigroup and Deutsche Bank.

It has been alleged that ANZ, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and J.P. Morgan engaged in “cartel behaviour” in relation to the supply of 80.8 million shares in August 2015.

J.P. Morgan was reportedly granted immunity from the proceedings as a result of whistleblowing on the matter. However, Mr Priestly, who currently serves as chairman of J.P. Morgan Australia and was formerly its CEO, claimed that the case would serve as a “distraction” for the ASX.

“I am very conscious of the unique role that the ASX plays at the heart of Australia’s financial marketplace and with all of its participants,” Mr Priestley said.

“There has been considerable interest in the ACCC banking matter which may become a potential distraction for the ASX and my board colleagues.

“It is likely that this matter will take some time to resolve, and as there are limits to the information that can be discussed at this time, I think the right course of action in these circumstances is to step aside from the ASX board to allow the situation to be fully resolved.

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“I look forward to the time when all of the facts and circumstances relevant to this matter are clarified.”

Commenting on the resignation, ASX chairman Rick Holliday-Smith said: “Rob’s decision to step down in these circumstances demonstrates his commitment to the highest standards of corporate governance.

“We understand the difficulty of his position and appreciate that he has made a decision that puts ASX ahead of other considerations.

“Rob has been a valued member of the ASX board and we look forward to this matter being resolved.”

Mr Priestley has also stepped down from his role on the Future Fund’s board of guardians.

The former J.P. Morgan CEO has not been accused of any wrongdoing in relation to the cartel case.

ASX CFO to step down

The ASX has also announced that chief financial officer Ramy Aziz will depart his role in September 2018, after 18 years of service with the group, including eight years as CFO.

ASX managing director and CEO Dominic Stevens said: “Ramy has made a very significant contribution to the ASX over many years and has been an important member of my executive team.

“I have valued his support and the expertise and sound judgement that he has brought to his role as CFO.

“I look forward to continuing to work closely with Ramy over the coming months as we prepare to deliver the  ASX’s full-year results for 2018.”

The ASX is currently undertaking an executive recruitment process as part of its search for Mr Aziz’s replacement.

[Related: Cartel case to be heard in court next month]

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