Crown chair Helen Coonan apologises "unreservedly" for company failures

Crown chair Helen Coonan apologises "unreservedly" for company failures

The chairman of Crown Resorts (ASX: CWN) has "unreservedly" apologised for the company's failures during an address to shareholders today, one day after admitting that the company 'facilitated' money laundering.

Speaking at the company's AGM today, Crown chairman Helen Coonan (pictured) began by addressing matters raised by an ongoing Inquiry from the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.

According to Coonan, the company acknowledges it has failed the community's high standards, saying the failures did "not reflect our values and expectations".

"Let me say clearly that I unreservedly apologise for these failings," Coonan said.

"As a Board we will take all the steps necessary to make sure we learn from these mistakes.

"The Board has a deep respect and understanding of its obligations to provide good corporate stewardship. As a company, we are committed to ensuring we have the highest standards of governance and an organisational culture that is exemplary."

Coonan said the company is currently implementing an agenda of reform, which should address many of the concerns raised by the Independent Inquiry.

The Inquiry is due to report its findings by 1 February 2021.

The reform agenda will be categorised into four key areas: accountability, compliance, money laundering risks, and company structure.

In order to facilitate these reforms Coonan said Crown will establish a new Compliance and Financial Crimes department, which will be fully independent from any commercial or revenue considerations.

Coonan said Crown will lead from the top to address compliance issues.

"The board is unanimous in its view that a uniform culture of full compliance across the organisation is the bedrock of how we will operate," said Coonan.

"We must make our expectations clear to all our people. They must do the right thing and there will be no tolerance for those who fail to respond."

As part of this reform Crown's senior executives will see 50 per cent of short-term incentives deferred by 12 months which will be subject to forfeiture in the event of adverse compliance issues arising within that period.

To address issues with the facilitation of money laundering at Crown, the company will implement a joint AML/CTF (anti-money laundering/counter-terrorism financing) program.

This program is on target to be implemented by the end of October.

"The Program will also be subject to an independent review by financial crime and fraud experts Promontory following its full implementation to identify and address any issue that arise," said Coonan.

As for issues with the group's systems, structures and expertise Crown has suspended relationships with all junket operators until June next year, giving the company time to consult and consider the question of whether or not it will recommence relationships with them in the future.

"Should we decide to work with junkets again, we will only do so after extensive consultation with regulators regarding significantly enhanced due diligence processes," said Coonan.

"These processes would incorporate all the recommendations of a recent review conducted by Deloitte, as well as lessons learned from the Inquiry and interactions with other regulators.

"All of these reforms to strengthen accountability and transparency, uphold a uniform culture of compliance, proactively assess and address money laundering risks, and protect Crown from criminal elements are just the first steps."

In terms of the company's board Coonan said more changes will be made.

"In the area of Board renewal, the Board accepts that there needs to be an injection of new perspectives and expertise on our Board," said Coonan.

"I want to reassure our various stakeholders that we are listening, and changes will be made."

As reported by the Australian Financial Review, Crown received a "first strike" against its remuneration report today, with 34.3 per cent of shareholders voting against the resolution.

In addition, former public servant Jane Halton was successful in her re-election to the Crown board.

Guy Jalland, a nominee from James Packer's Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH) that holds a 36.8 per cent stake in Crown, was also re-elected despite a 41.2 per cent vote against him.

Crown also announced the termination of arrangements between Crown and CPH yesterday.

These included a services arrangement which allowed Crown to request the provision of services by CPH executives and a 'Controlling Shareholder Protocol' from 2018 which enabled the sharing of confidential information by Crown to CPH and James Packer.

Shares in CWN are down 0.24 per cent at 11.37am AEDT.

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