Analyzing The Violation Of Ethical Guidelines In Australian Banking Sector

Relevance of Ethical Code of Conduct in Business

This report intends to analyse one case study related to violation of ethical guidelines of Australian banking sector. In addition to that, another case study will be presented as compared to the former one in order to analyse and find positive outcome from the ongoing crisis. Whatever the judgment will be, it must be integrated with the ethical guidelines of relevant industry sector. Analysis and comparison of two case studies will help to understand the nature of violation and assist to suggest future strategies. The chosen cases are bribery scandal of National Australia Bank staff and allegation against Commonwealth bank of encouraging money laundering breaches and financing terrorism activities. At first, this report will talk over the relevance of code of conduct and ethical practices within a business scenario. After that from a brief description of both the case studies will help to understand varied nature of ethical violation within banking industry. The trend of moral crime will be elaborated in this course. Following with the evaluation of case studies in terms of banking sector, strategies for each issues have been suggested to deal with such major morality issues. Therefore, the purpose of this report is to analyse the available information about these cases, suggest positive outcome and strategies to mitigate the issues and comparing these two with the ethical guidelines of relevant sector, the areas of violation will be explored. This report will work as a guideline to the banking industry for taking safety measures in advance against the potential loss of business ethics for accomplishing organisational goals (Michaelson et al. 2014).

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According to Chun et al. (2015), the corporate culture of business industry does not entertain unethical practices to ensure company goodwill and a sustainable position in the market. Yet, acknowledging the profit centred business industry it can be easily assumed that organisations seek opportunities to satisfy customers with the intention of making more profit and competitive advantage. They work for environmental and social sustainability to attain organizational goals. That is why, while dealing with corporate governance and code of conduct; higher authority finds numerous cases of both minor and major violation of regulations (Lock and Seele 2015).

Ethics can be associated with behavioural aspects of a certain organisation or individual. People can make themselves way behind from adopting such practices if they consider one of the ethical guidelines into mind, whether it is personal or related to organisation (Nicol?escu 2013). As instance, the cases of Australian banking scandals can be mentioned. These two examples from banking industry are evidence of degradation from an established business to an accused one. As a result, the relationship between customers and the banking industry starts to degrade too. Whereas, described in Pérez and Rodríguez del Bosque (2014), customer satisfaction is regarded as the highest priority of every corporate scenario, by playing unethical cards how NAB and Commonwealth bank have dishonoured the culture of the banking industry that has been described below.

Ethical Violations within the Banking Industry

Australia’s financial intelligence agency has sued the bank for several breaches of laws as the bank fails to present the report of almost $77m suspicious transactions from ATMs of different locations (Bush 2016). The bank authority could not act in an expected way against the allegation that associations of drug dealer was exploiting their deposit machines to launder huge amount of money (Beekarry 2013). Estimation is in millions of dollars. The bank was accused after the investigation conducted by The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac), which has been referred as financial intelligence agency publicized the decision of suing Commonwealth bank’s inability to take any concrete measures for almost 54,000 breaches of financial laundering.

It was claimed in the report of Knaus (2018), that their self-proclaimed “intelligent” money deposit machines, which can be used to deposit money anonymously, even at unusual hours of the day when banks are closed too. Discrepancy was spotted when the bank employees failed to report properly and mitigate the crisis. As per Madary and Metzinger 2016), online fraud cases in banking sector has become common these days. It has been observed in Commonwealth bank those suspicious transactions were conducted by money laundering associations among which three groups deal with drug importation from foreign lands and distribute it via several channels. Consistently before the revelation of such illegal activities, the deposit machine consistently helping to relocate and deposit cash frequently (Liss and Sharman 2015).

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In spite of receiving a warning from Australian Police, the organisation remains neutral about the matter and did not show any act of responsibility towards their treasuries security. Although, the issue was brought to notice in the year of 2014, still it takes more than one year to stop such activities on behalf of banks until the culprits were arrested for doing so. Hereby, the bank has been accused with failure of observing the origin of transactions on almost 800,000 bank accounts over more than three years of time. The Commonwealth Bank has stated to eliminate such allegations of terrorism financing and announced that huge amount of money is going to be invested on compliance policy of anti-money laundering. In order to ensure ultimate security the Bank decided to train their employees to act against such cases of breaching. Such instances of negligence have a great impact on customers who trust the organisation with their money and valuable belongings. As argued by Tang and Ai (2013), Occurrence of such issues creates unstable relationship with customers, which leads to reduced customer loyalty.

Evaluation of Case Studies in terms of Banking Sector

The case of National Australia Bank has been reported to banking royal commission as an extraordinary evidence of ethical violation of both the company and business norms (Hutchens 2018). The incidents of dishonest practices are numerous in various fields of banking and surprisingly allegations are against the employees mostly. A bribery ring has been found covering various branches of NAB, among which cases of fake documents, payslips and Med claim records have been brought into notice. Employees are accused for considering bribes from customers for loan sanction and staffs have been found to be engaged in validation of new customers with fake documents to ensure their monthly incentives.

It has been observed, as described in Choo (2014), that non-financial professionals are being paid for referring unknown people and ask for requirement of loans. The pressure of meeting the targets was so intense from the higher authority; employees had adopted several unethical policies in order to be regarded as performing employee of the organisation. However, the company policy cannot be questioned as far as violating ethical policy is concerned (Fungá?ová, Kochanova and Weill 2015). In this case, both the company and individual ethical boundaries have been dishonoured. After the revelation of the actual scenario, the organisation has complied with several compensation programme yet issue of sustainability continues to be a part of NAB.

In general, it is the Board members’ duty to monitor occurrence of ethical issues within organisation whereas, an officer gathers data by following up employee performance and informs the cases of incompliance. As per the study of Fritz et al. (2013), senior management team has the responsibility to identify and mitigate ethical issues in order to promote ethical behaviour. According to the ethical framework of banking industry, they have to consider several moral boundaries before exploring profitable opportunities. Technical interventions are encouraging the chances of both the internal and external ethical conflicts. Bankers’ responsibility is to maintain the relationship of trust. They are trusted for taking care for personal belongings, the result of utmost hard work. However, according to Martins, Oliveira and Popovi? (2014), under such pressure of performing risky activities, bankers’ must comply with several security issues for the welfare of society. Therefore, it is proven fact that this industry is highly depending on their policies of maintaining ethical standard. As per the study of Pérez, Martínez and Del Bosque (2013), industry responsibility is huge as industry serves purposes of government, shareholders, customers and different communities beyond boundaries. Bank’s responsibilities have been explained briefly as follows and further according to that ideal guideline the cases of bribery and terrorism financing will be evaluated that where those bank’s policy went wrong as far as ethics is concerned.

Strategies to Deal with Major Morality Issues

Banking industry is one of the risk-oriented sectors as it involves the responsibility of handling money. Ethical execution of banking operations is important as organisations depend on public trust entirely. Compared to any other industry, the responsibility is higher as banks have to ensure safety, return appropriate amount to the depositors and investors is taken as highest priority. The case of Commonwealth bank is related to the violation of security regulation. The bank took the situation casually for the first place and waited until police arrested some of the culprits. The authority was obliged to take security measures yet it was indifferent act of management of Commonwealth Bank for not taking up action against such threat of terrorism. As far as the second case of internal ethical violation is concerned that is carrying more trust issues as employees themselves were involved into discrepancy. Therefore, principal of building mutual trust is the basic criteria of banking industry to ensure long-term relationship of serving shared interest.

The responsibilities of senior managers has been revised to enhance the security system of banking industry so that cases like Commonwealth bank where the organisation was accused for being indifferent even after several warnings. An active team of managers and risk mitigation executive will serve the purpose of taking timely action (Anderson et al. 2013). Introduction of anti-bribery practice must be there within the banking regulation according to availability of resources. In addition to that, monitoring each transactions and keep a record of that falls under basic responsibility of employees. In the case of National Australia Bank, faking documents, paying non-financial professionals for collecting new contacts and considering bribery as an organisational practice for every loan sanction is highly dishonest in terms of being the epitome of trust (Cohn, Fehr and Maréchal 2014). Moreover, all these activities falls under criminal offences too as happened in the case of National Australia Bank.

According to the trend of ethical violation, terrorism or anti-social activities are performed under the name of terrorist financing. The market is highly aware of the concept yet majority of people do not know how such allegation can be raised against banking industry, which has been made for supporting societal needs. The procedure is actually smuggling of cash to the terrorist syndicates unlawfully. The banks are being accused for financial crime, whereas it has been observed that the authority is clueless about the process. moreover, huge imbalance can be observed in balance sheet. This is a case of violating regulation basic objective, which is providing security to the customers’ interest. The banks are failed to understand the discrepancy on time, as financers do not transfer huge amount of money at a time. Transactions are made with small amounts to dodge the attention of governments. This ethical loss has been observed not only among terrorist organisations but also among business persons who have to make or receive payments from overseas. As described in SM Irwin et al. (2014), considering the banks’ inability to track down every virtual transactions, money-laundering patterns can be noticed in a suspicious way across complicated networks of those syndicates. In this due course, public of the state are engaging themselves into thinking of their money’s future. With this concern, the banking industry is losing its relevance within contemporary society. People are not feeling safe anymore.

Banking Industry’s Responsibilities

In these cases, company must take initiative right after discovering the discrepancy yet Commonwealth violated that matter of both the treasury and customers’ security act. Various laws have been created regarding this terrorist financing activities, which are known as ‘counter terrorist financing policy’. As per the guideline of policy makers bankers must maintain strict regulation regarding supervising and observing customers’ behaviour regarding transaction. It is employee’s responsibility to keep the data in record. Commonwealth bank failed to present the report of real scenarios regarding suspicious transaction for which unpleasant consequences came up certainly.  Besides, to reduce such cases banks can introduce the policy for screening the customers before dealing with them.

Terrorist financing can be considered as external terror of banking industry, where according to ethics bankers must monitor the system to remove threat of breaches for securing customers’ concern. On the contrary, in the case of National Australia Bank, employees are involved into unethical practices of making fake documents, Med claim cards for meeting the monthly requirements of the company. Employees not only securing incentive by doing this but also receiving bribery for sanctioning variety of loans. First, using forged documents is not supported where government and public concerns are involved. Banking industry portrays itself as epitome of trust. In this case, authority’s pressure has been presented as one of the major reasons for adopting unethicality. However, the question arises against the existence of individual sense of morality. Additionally, being an employee complying with industry norms is mandatory for every job profile. After conducting extensive research, as argued by Asongu, (2014), it has been observed that bribery is a global and even complicated phenomenon existing within the system of every industry more or less. Increasing demand of human lifestyle leads them to earn more money and if it is not possible in a proper way people violate norms, ethical boundaries wishfully to earn some extra amounts.

According to Abbink and Wu (2017), in order to mitigate this kind of organisational practice improvement of lifestyle is required in the first place. Banking industry, more specifically needs to adopt ethical framework strictly to avoid corruption within system. The organisation must be well established and supported by both the monetary and human resources (Levi, Halliday and Reuter 2014). A strong, well-built business model has the capability to control external threats of reduced customer loyalty.

It has been perceived that among four suspicious channels of transactions Commonwealth Bank has identified three of them to be part of drug dealing syndicates. Whatever the identity of fourth breaches be, the fact has been made clear by the federal police, that Commonwealth bank contributed in terrorism financing indirectly by ignoring the issue and being indifferent in the matter of taking action. Anti-social activists requires huge amount of money for conducting unlawful activities, which are against ethical behaviour. Buying weapons, manufacturing explosives and using money from travelling are some necessities of these type of organisations (Freeman and Ruehsen 2013). They are exploiting city banks, violating ethics and circulating the money within society to create an atmosphere of threat. Circulating drugs are responsible for degradation of society specially the young generation.

Conclusion

Key strategies for combating terrorism financing and exploitation of banks FATF stands provides a set of guideline to maintain for addressing and mitigating such practices (Usman Kemal 2014).

  • Financial sectors especially banks, insurance companies who deal with public investments, need to improve the understanding about this concept. In order to ensure extensive perception, management can arrange training on terrorist financing risks.
  • Effective tools must be identified to monitor the situation. The era of digitalization has made it possible to execute several tasks, which were difficult before. Installation of intelligent deposit machine is a good idea which can be used for monitoring customers’ details too while the deposit session is going on. Commonwealth’s machine did not have ability to record depositors’ data. That was a major drawback though.
  • Government must take initiative to supervise this industry minutely as several issues have been generated regarding application of these tools among banking organisations.
  • Countries must come forward for strengthening their guidelines to save financial organisations from accusation of participating in terrorism financing activities.
  • Organisational structure must be strong enough for dealing against such allegations. Honest and skilled human resource is necessary to understand, identify and mitigate unethicality.
  • Financial sectors like banks and their customers have various things to do to prevent money laundering through the financial system of an entire country. therefore, scanning customer details before dealing with them is as important as serving facilities to  run a sustainable business. Extreme cooperation is needed from both the end to make the initiative successful (Quarshie, Salmi and Leuschner 2016).
  • Customers must be faithful too towards every financial sector in terms of providing original documents. Otherwise, it works as a loophole for terrorists or anti-social groups to enter into the central financial system in disguise. It is citizens’ duty to maintain the strict regulations of banks in order to help them to provide security.

Hence, it can be stated, private sectors, like banks have a crucial role to play in putting restriction to terrorist financing. Terrorist exploits such organisations where public invest in order to access the wide-reaching financial system. As suggested by Petrou and Thanos (2014), unlike Commonwealth bank, national banking sector must be aware both collectively and individually by gathering knowledge about the concept. It will enable them to take necessary as well as timely action to make others alert. Certain policies must be introduced to every banks in order to make them aware how they can identify cases of virtual breaches (Wei et al. 2013).

However, in this due course Commonwealth suffered on a large scale for being indifferent to both the government instructions and public security. Ethical guideline of a banking organisation has been violated extremely in this case. Moreover, consequently organisation settled to compensate by providing the biggest fine. Historically, it was the highest amount ever paid by any organisation against multiple allegation regarding violated ethical code of conduct. In order to rectify the mistake of reporting the amount of breaches, banks are instructed from AUSTRAC to communicate within 10 to 12 business days about transaction of large amounts. Although, an efficient supervision is necessary as anti-social syndicates prefers to transfer money in small sum yet frequently. Banks are required to be careful too in this matter.

Moral sense of individual leads them to comply with organizational regulations and help them to attain an ethical behaviour. However, in spite of being employed in highly paying and respectable job, employees tend to feel of adopting unlawful practices influenced by either organizational culture or urge of earning more money. The case of National Australia Bank suggests revising company policy, as employees tend to create false accounts and submitting fake documents to meet the target of enrolling new customers. People are so money oriented these days that they do not even realise by doing these things they are making the entire financial system fragile as well as creating a place for breaches to enter easily. There is no alternative of a strong, strict financial system. Employees are violating ethical standard both in terms of organisational and perspective of the country itself. Financial sectors exist within society based on mutual trust. Customers need to be honest too and think twice before offering bribe to any officials. Few strategies can be suggested in order to resolve internal issues of banking sector. As per Akhlaq and Ahmed (2013), online banking has become popular across both the developed and developing countries. The industry cannot blame external breaches and the wide acceptation of online banking for future threat. The bank itself must be ethically right in order to mitigate further issues.

  • It has been noticed that civil servants are underpaying in most of the cases. They feel too pressured to income a considerable amount, which leads them towards supplementary ways. There are certain employees too, who have chosen to be ethically correct considering both the individual and collective interest in mind (Zheng et al. 2013). However, to change this mind set, employee policy needs to be revised by banks. Additionally, reasons must be identified first, for which employees are losing their ethical standard.
  • Business standard must be structured as a part of national policy where ethical behaviour and principles have to be base of any foundation.
  • Adopting code of business ethics not only makes a business sustainable and earns goodwill but also it is a strategy itself for securing the organisation from the risk of external threats. As described in Carminati  et al. (2015), people are trusting on online banking, as banking sector has become more global than ever. Like the case of NAB, if employees make the system weaker from its base then it will be difficult to provide security for public financial system.
  • Rather looking for supplementary ways of income, employees must concentrate not to violate norms as well as to maintain a healthy financial structure. Strong financial sectors like banks are one of the major institutions, which reflect a strong economic condition of country.
  • Training sessions can be arranged by Australian governments to make them understand the global policies of ethical codes in business and how it will be beneficial for the country.
  • The entire banking industry must be monitored periodically to ensure strategies are being followed properly.
  • Dealing with huge amount of money is a matter of responsibility too. As suggested by Barnes and Kilding (2015), appropriate anti-corruption culture must be inevitable to follow not only for a sustainable business but also to sustain Australia’s economy as public trust these organisations with their earnings (Hussain Chandio et al. 2013).

Conclusion

After evaluating Australia’s banking industry, its culture and two cases of violated ethical standards it has been understood that ethical boundaries are easily violated as people consider individual’s interest first before than collective interest. In this due course, they forget that if they serve global purpose, individual one will be served eventually. On the contrary, officials of banking sectors are well aware of the potential threats, which can occur if the system is not strong enough. Therefore, National Australia’s case is surprising as their employees are found to be participants of a bribery ring across the branches. It is a slam on public trust, after realising the filthy reality of banking sector. On the contrary, even the organisational structure and culture were fine enough to combat issues of external threats like terrorism financing, being ignorant of the concept partly and remaining indifferent to the issues even after realising the cases suspicious transactions cannot be accepted as they carry huge responsibility of providing security to Australian’s money. It is a case of high negligence and cannot be spared without accusing them for encouraging drug dealing syndicates.

In order to ensure a bright future for Australian economy, it is responsibility of every Australian citizen, especially who are within the financial system, to feel the soreness of morally cheated by own fellow citizens. It is highly sensitive matter and important too. Citizen’s trust must be renowned if both the business and financial system of the country have to survive in the long run.

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