>> Criminal cartel charges to the tune of $2.3 billion. Those are the allegations facing Australia's third biggest bank on Friday. ANZ, along with individuals, including the bank's treasurer, were told federal prosecutors would issue the charges over a 2015 stock placement. But it doesn't stop at Australia's borders. The underwriters, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup, said in separate statements they also expect to be charged.
When pressed at a media conference, Australia's treasurer dodged the question.>> These are very serious matters and it's the product of an ICCC investigation. But given the nature of that and where it stands, it would be inappropriate for me to offer any other comment.>> The third underwriter in the trade, J.P. Morgan, was not named in the charges and declined to comment.
Australia has some of the toughest anti-cartel laws in the world. The charges could carry huge fines and ten year prison terms. Analysts are calling the charges a PR nightmare for ANZ. They've come at a crucial juncture for Australia's banks as a separate independent inquiry investigates issues off misconduct across the country's financial sector.
ANZ share price was more than 2% down in Friday afternoon's trading. All three banks have denied wrongdoing, with ANZ and Deutsche Bank, both saying they plan to defend the charges. Citi Group said in a statement, Australia's regulator was effectively criminalizing practices long seen as the norm in the financial industry.