Corporate governance experts are predicting further casualties from The Star Entertainment’s senior ranks and board after chief executive Matt Bekier resigned on Monday following damaging revelations about the group’s failure to stop money laundering and organised crime risks in its casinos.
Mr Bekier stood down on Monday, one week after a public inquiry by the NSW gambling regulator was told he furiously rejected a report by KPMG that found the company was failing to tackle money laundering risks in its casinos. Star later erroneously claimed legal privilege over the 2018 KPMG report to hide it from the financial crimes watchdog, the inquiry was told.
The NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority is examining whether Star is fit to hold its casino licence following allegations by The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and 60 Minutes last year of money laundering, criminal infiltration and wide-scale fraud at the company’s flagship Pyrmont casino.
Swinburne Law School lecturer in corporate law and corporate governance, Helen Bird, said Mr Bekier was the most appropriate person to resign from the company but predicted more departures, pointing to the company’s chairman John O’Neill as one key figure now under pressure.
“I think there are question marks about the board. I think renewal has got to go higher, definitely the chair,” she said of Mr O’Neill, the former boss of rugby union in Australia who has served as chairman of Star since 2012. Mr O’Neill and Mr Bekier have not given evidence at the inquiry.
Elizabeth Sheedy, a former banker and risk governance expert at Macquarie University in Sydney, said any directors who were on the board in 2018 when the KPMG report was produced would now face pressure from regulators and investors. “I think anyone who was on the board risk committee or board audit committee at the time the KPMG report was produced needs to show cause as to why they should keep their position,” she said. “I would imagine institutional investors are working behind the scenes and asking those questions.”
The Star was contacted for comment but did not respond by deadline. Aside from the KPMG report, the inquiry has not heard specifically which board members may have been aware of money laundering risks at what time.
Rival operator Crown suffered an almost complete purge of its board and management over the past two years after inquiries in NSW and Victoria both ruled it was unfit to hold a casino licence. “I think we’re seeing all the same behaviours,” Ms Bird said of the damning evidence that has emerged so far at the Star inquiry.
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