* Westpac now welcomes inquiry it resisted for years - CEO
* Investigation "an opportunity to tell our story" - CEO
* Shares rise 1 pct
(Adds background, CEO quote and shares)
SYDNEY, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Australia's Westpac Banking
Corporation believes a wide-ranging inquiry into the
scandal-hit finance industry that it resisted for years can
restore trust in the sector, its chief executive said on Friday.
The country's biggest bank by assets had until last week
said the probe was unnecessary, even though it has been caught
up in the scandals that have swept through the sector in recent
years and is fighting allegations in court that its staff rigged
a benchmark swap rate.
"Banks have been a political football for too long. That's
why we have now accepted the need for a Royal Commission to
create certainty and confidence in our banking system," Westpac
Chief Executive Officer Brian Hartzer said at the company's
annual general meeting in Sydney.
The Australian government last week bowed to opposition
pressure and called the inquiry, which has the power to compel
witnesses and recommend criminal charges.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the probe was necessary
to restore confidence in the financial system after years of
scandals ranging from misleading financial advice to alleged
breaches of anti-money laundering rules.
"The industry has a significant challenge ahead to rebuild
its reputation," Hartzer told shareholders.
"We are embracing the Royal Commission as a way to finally
draw a line in the sand on calls for inquiries, and as an
opportunity to tell our story," he said.
"While the inquiry may find issues across the industry, what
I hope it will also show is that in Westpac's case, we are
acting to fix past issues as they arise."
The announcement of the year-long inquiry wiped 2 percent
from Westpac stock when it was announced on Nov. 30, though the
price has since recovered. The stock rose 1 percent to A$31.69
($23.81) in morning trade on Friday, while the broader market
edged 0.5 percent higher.
($1 = 1.3312 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Stephen Coates)
First Published: 2017-12-08 01:25:06
Updated 2017-12-08 02:06:07
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