White-collar crime in Australia

Allens

Allens remains at the forefront of the latest developments in white-collar enforcement, offering specialist advice from a deep bench of practitioners in both Sydney and Melbourne. The practice is known for its standout advice in the anti-bribery and corruption space, especially involving foreign bribery investigations. Other recent active areas include acting for banks and financial services companies in criminal cases brought by ASIC, anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing work, and criminal cartel prosecutions. Also of note is the team's experience working with regulators and prosecutorial agencies across the world. Practice co-head Rachel Nicholson in Melbourne has recognised expertise in anti-bribery litigation and in law reform across the Asia Pacific region, while fellow co-head Chris Kerrigan in Sydney has deep experience in bribery and corruption investigations in multiple jurisdictions, including the UK and US. Guy Foster is an experienced litigator whose expertise includes ASIC investigations.  James Campbell was promoted to partner in July 2020; he combines specialisms in disputes and investigations with risk and compliance advisory.

Practice head(s):

Chris Kerrigan; Rachel Nicolson

Key clients

Westpac

Australia and New Zealand Banking Corporation

Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation (SMEC)

Iluka Resources

Seqirus

South32

Work highlights

  • Acting for Westpac in AUSTRAC’s investigation (commenced in August 2018) and defending the bank in the proceedings commenced in November 2019. There has been significant media commentary surrounding the claim, which was followed by the resignation of Westpac’s CEO and its Chairman announcing he would be leaving his role early. There has been significant media speculation that this could result in the largest fine in Australian corporate history.
  • Allens has been acting for SMEC (Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation) since July 2015. SMEC provides consultancy services on infrastructure and development projects in Australia and around the world. SMEC is the subject of an AFP investigation in relation to allegations of bribery of foreign public officials. We have conducted a series of independent investigations for SMEC in connection with these issues. We also advise SMEC on its engagement with the AFP, ASIC, DFAT, and the multilateral development banks (who fund many of the projects that SMEC works on) such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. This is a highly significant and complex regulatory investigation, involving numerous regulators and international financial institutions. The matter draws on Allens’ substantial experience in conducting bribery investigations and our expertise in managing large scale regulatory investigations.
  • Acting for ANZ in relation to ACCC investigation and subsequent criminal cartel prosecutions brought against ANZ, two global investment banks, and six senior executives in relation to a $2.5bn institutional share placement undertaken by ANZ in August 2015. Acting for ANZ in relation to ASIC investigation and subsequent Federal Court proceeding alleging breach of continuous disclosure obligations in relation to the institutional placement. This was only the second criminal cartel prosecution by the ACCC against an Australian corporation, and the first against a listed Australian corporation. It raises complex issues in relation to market practice and untested areas of law.

Herbert Smith Freehills

Herbert Smith Freehills continues to act on the largest, most complex, and sensitive white-collar crime matters in Australia, drawing on the firm's global network of offices to provide comprehensive cross-border coverage of the Asia-Pacific region. The practice has a wealth of expertise across anti-bribery and corruption, fraud, sanctions and export control, money laundering, and cartels. It also performs well in the financial services, TMT, commercial and professional services, energy and resources, and agriculture sectors. Practice head Grant Marjoribanks in Sydney is a disputes and investigations specialist with a focus on anti-bribery and corruption issues. Andrew Eastwood has considerable experience in anti-bribery and corruption investigations including criminal and civil penalty proceedings commenced by ASIC and the ACCC. Other key practitioners include the Sydney-based Anna Sutherland, the regional head of disputes, and Elizabeth Macknay, who leads the corporate crime and investigations practice in Perth and is an expert in the mining and resources sector. A senior associate with an active practice is Christine Wong.

Practice head(s):

Grant Marjoribanks

Key clients

Horizon Oil

Rio Tinto

BHP Limited

Citigroup Global Markets Australia Pty Limited (CGMA)

Tabcorp

Work highlights

  • Advising Horizon Oil on AFR investigation, instigated from accusations by the media regarding foreign bribery or unlawful conduct in connection with the grant of an oilfield development licence in the highlands of Papua New Guinea in 2011.
  • Advising the former general counsel of ASX-listed company in relation to alleged bribery and corruption associated with its Simandou mine concessions in Guinea, resulting in international regulatory investigation being run by the AFP, the Australian Securities & Investments Commission, the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the US Department of Justice and the UK Serious Fraud Office.
  • Advising BHP on criminal exposure and investigation matters arising from the collapse of the Fundão tailings dam at Samarco’s Germano iron ore mine in Brazil, Brazil’s worst environmental tragedy.

Allen & Overy LLP

Allen & Overy LLP stands out for its cross-border capability and its ability to advise on cases involving the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The white-collar crime team also draws on the expertise of the firm's global network, often operating closely with the recently bolstered teams in Hong Kong and Shanghai. The practice is led by Jason Gray, who regularly supports clients in civil and criminal matters related to Australia's anti-money laundering regime, as well as providing market-leading experience in all aspects of US anti-bribery and corruption law. He is also active in the defense of clients before regulatory bodies, in handling internal investigations, and in carrying out due diligence regarding corporate transactions and third parties. In team news, John Samaha retired from the partnership in February 2020, staying on as a consultant.

Practice head(s):

Jason Gray

Other key lawyers:

Edward Einfeld

Testimonials

‘Extremely knowledgeable within the practice area. Very close to the local environment due to exposure to various cases in the Philippines. Great integration of all local legal requirements of our various subsidiaries into the final work product. Very good at adapting to the client brief and delivering an appropriate solution, nothing over-engineered.’

‘The two have been extremely responsive. Delivering fast turnaround times. Good listeners to the actual situation of the company and adjusting the process and output to the needs. Very pleasant to deal with.’

‘The team has provided high-quality advice on internal investigations in India. The location of the team combined with having US qualified and highly-experienced lawyers in the APAC region makes them an ideal choice for anything FCPA-related. The team communicates extremely well and are pragmatic in their advice and approach to complex investigations. They are flexible and open to finding solutions to manage their work in a cost-effective way.’

‘Jason Gray is an exceptional lawyer. He is pragmatic, on top of the detail but delegates appropriately to ensure investigations are conducted effectively and cost-effectively. He makes himself available at short notice, including for travel.’

Work highlights

  • We are acting for the Australian operations of a Japanese headquartered oil and gas company in relation to a current foreign bribery investigation being conducted by the Australian Federal Police into certain allegations surrounding our clients’ joint venture partner in Papua New Guinea.
  • Representing the most senior executive of a big four domestic bank in relation to government investigations into potential AML/CTF Act violations
  • Engaged by Australian company focused on gas exploration and production in China following its acquisition by a U.S. private equity firm to review and enhance the company’s existing anti-bribery and corruption compliance policies and program, develop new whistleblower policies, and conduct anti-bribery and corruption training in China and Australia, and to present to the board of the client on the development of the program and to train the board in Australia.

Ashurst

Ashurst's white-collar crime offering sits under the aegis of the departments of dispute resolution (headed by Jeremy Chenoweth), employment (led by Stephen Woodbury), strategic advisory (under Lea Constantine) and finance regulatory (with global head Jonathan Gordon). A major hiring coup for the firm was the arrival of leading white-collar crime practitioner Rani John from DLA Piper in November 2019, which significantly bolstered the firm's capability in this space. Her extensive experience encompasses ASIC and ACCC investigations, public inquiries and extends to high-profile white-collar trials. Other key lawyers include Alyssa Phillips in Brisbane, who regularly handles matters involving anti-bribery and corruption (ABC), competition and consumer protection laws, and junior partner James Clarke in Melbourne, whose practice includes advising clients in the energy and resources and financial services industries on ABC matters and investigations.

Other key lawyers:

Rani John; Alyssa Phillips; James Clarke

Testimonials

‘Ability to distill complex legal jargon into simple and crisp insights and advice.’

‘Very patient and a great ability to understand the client and assist them in understanding alternative points of view. Strong ability to assist in thinking about a question from the regulator so that the response is considered and factually correct.’

Work highlights

  • Representing CPH Crown , James Packer, Guy Jalland and Michael Johnston in the high profile Inquiry initiated by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (the Inquiry) in August 2019.
  • Acting for a group of executive and non-executive directors and officers of Quintis in a high profile ASIC investigation involving Quintis Ltd (a formerly listed company) in relation to various alleged breaches of the Corporations Act and the ASX Listing Rules
  • Acting for Societe Generale in criminal proceedings commenced by the Commonwealth Department of Prosecutions alleging breaches of the notoriously complex “client money rules” in the Corporations Act.

Clayton Utz

Clayton Utz is well known for its strong cross-border capability in the white-collar crime space. The practice regularly advises on complex and high-profile anti-bribery and corruption investigations, particularly those with multi-jurisdictional aspects and involving foreign agencies, including the UK Serious Fraud Office and the US Department of Justice. Another area of strength is in strategic advisory work: the team assists multinational clients with the design and implementation of risk management plans. The department has a strong track record advising clients in the financial services, natural resources, government, tech, and agribusiness sectors. Sydney-based team co-head Tobin Meagher is an expert in handling major criminal investigations and litigation. His fellow co-head David Benson (based in Perth) specialises in representing clients in high-value litigation cases with an international dimension and Nicholas Mavrakis has extensive bribery and corruption investigations experience.  In team news, Gary Berson retired in December 2019.

Practice head(s):

Tobin Meagher; David Benson

Other key lawyers:

Nicholas Mavrakis

Key clients

Sheahan Lock Partners

Simon Poidevin

Melco Resorts & Entertainment Limited (Melco)

Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean (WWO)

Work highlights

  • Acting for the liquidators of various companies in complex, high-profile proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia and related liquidator examinations.
  • Acting for Simon Poidevin, the Managing Director of Corporate Broking in the Equity Capital Markets division of Bell Potter Securities Limited, in proceedings before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a full merits review of ASIC’s decision to make a banning order under sections 920A and 920B of the Corporations Act.
  • Act for a NASDAQ-listed casino operator, Melco, in its response to the statutory inquiry constituted by the Independent Gaming and Liquor Authority (ILGA) under the Casino Control Act (NSW).

Corrs Chambers Westgarth

Corrs Chambers Westgarth fields an impressive team of white-collar crime specialists with extensive experience in state and federal government inquiries, investigations and Royal Commissions. The practice acts for government entities, regulatory bodies and a wide range of top corporate clients, the big four Australian banks and international accounting firms on highly significant and complex cases. Abigail Gill in Melbourne heads up the practice, lending deep expertise of regulatory and internal investigations. Other key names include Craig Phillips, whose practice includes representing clients in investigations in connection with anti-trust and corruption compliance and enforcement matters, and Sydney-based tech and financial services disputes expert Simon Johnson. The key name in Perth is Kirsty Sutherland, who acts nationally.

Practice head(s):

Abigail Gill

Testimonials

‘A brand range of analytical and strategic skills, adaptable to whatever situation comes up. The team has a willingness to listen and respond.’

‘James Whittaker – an excellent leader and strategic thinker. Gives great support to clients and counsel to achieve the best result.’

‘The team was very responsive to requests for assistance and were willing to work with us as we sorted through particular challenges with the implementation of whistleblower laws. They made the effort to understand how our business works and provide advice and guidance specific to the unique circumstances and scenarios that our business faced in that regard.’

‘In addition to their clear expertise, we really appreciate the relaxed, conversational approach that both Richard and Heidi use when providing their advice. It creates a level of engagement that really works when trying to tackle issues that don’t always have a clear-cut answer. Because of this, we feel like we are getting advice tailored to our particular needs rather than off-the-shelf recommendations or generic recommendations.’

‘Kirsty Sutherland: effective, strategic, knowledgeable.’

‘The team have been amazing, they are understanding, patient, have a very quick turnaround on things when we need a response. I feel as if they are truly supporting us especially given that act for us in a pro bono capacity. I feel as though we are receiving a full fee-paying service.’

Gilbert + Tobin

Gilbert + Tobin's regulatory compliance and enforcement group is known for its work in disputes and investigations, particularly in competition law and a range of civil and criminal issues. The team's anti-bribery and corruption offering combines advice on complex regulatory enforcement and compliance matter with the implementation and audits of internal compliance systems. Other strengths of the team include deep experience in advising on anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing, and handling corporate misconduct cases, involving fraud, misappropriation of funds, and corporate espionage. The practice is led jointly by Richard Harris, who specialises in handling complex contentious regulatory mandates from corporate clients, and Elizabeth Avery, an expert in competition and cartel law (both are Sydney-based).

Practice head(s):

Richard Harris; Elizabeth Avery

Other key lawyers:

Gina Cass-Gottlieb

Testimonials

‘Expertise, experience, practical approach to advice.’

Key clients

Westpac

BT Funds Management

QBE

BlueScope

JP Morgan

Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Work highlights

  • Advising Westpac on investigations by Australian regulators, as well as on three shareholder class actions (two in Australia and 1 in the US), regarding the AUSTRAC proceedings against Westpac, which allege more than 23 million breaches of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism finance laws.
  • Representing Harold Mitchell AC, a former Tennis Australia director and experienced media buyer, in Federal Court proceedings brought by ASIC against him and former Tennis Australia President, Stephen Healy.
  • Acting for BlueScope on the ACCC’s investigation of alleged price fixing cartel conduct relating to the supply of steel products in Australia in the period from late-2013 to mid-2014.

Arnold Bloch Leibler

Led by high-profile litigator Leon ZwierArnold Bloch Leibler has an established track record in white-collar criminal defence work. It acts for senior officers in respect of allegations of fraud, corruption, foreign bribery, insider trading, and investigations - including those brought by ASIC and the Australian Federal Police. It is also a member of Fraudnet. A key team member, Jonathan Milner has handled investigations for bank and corporate clients relating to areas such as foreign bribery, and Susanna Ford is experienced in regulatory investigations and fraud allegations.

Practice head(s):

Leon Zwier

Other key lawyers:

Jonathan Milner; Susanna Ford

Testimonials

The Principals are very well connected and think outside the square. The Partners are highly intelligent, extremely hard-working, and work very well as part of a team. They also strive to educate the younger lawyers in the teams, none of whom get ahead of themselves.’

‘Experienced team in white-collar practice with good depth of resources.’

‘Leon Zwier – lateral thinker, enthusiastic and passionate.’

‘Leon Zwier is the senior high public profile partner who pulls no punches!’

‘Susanna Ford is the partner running my case very competently. Adequate and able support team to back her up.’

Work highlights

  • Acting for Paul Dougas, the former Chairman of Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) in connection with a long-running foreign bribery prosecution targeting his former firm. SKM, now known as Jacobs Group, is a large Australian engineering consultancy.
  • Acted as a strategic adviser to a Californian technology entrepreneur accused of being involved in a bribery scheme.  ABL also acted for his computer services company, Tech Advisers.

Baker McKenzie

The global compliance and investigations group at Baker McKenzie frequently acts for global companies in multi-jurisdictional investigations, while also providing advisory service on risk management. Sydney-based practice head Georgie Farrant advises on anti-bribery and corruption issues, with experience in internal and external investigations, civil and criminal proceedings, and risk assessments.

Practice head(s):

Georgie Farrant

Key clients

Fujifilm Australia

Work highlights

  • Advising on the preparation and implementation of FujiFilm Australia anti-bribery and corruption and whistleblower policies and procedures including advising in relation to the intersection with global laws and policies.

Clyde & Co LLP

Clyde & Co LLP acts on a wide range of work in the white-collar space, including the defence of internal and criminal investigations, advice to insurers on corporate crime-related claims, and the review of policy and procedure. Experienced in particular in the corruption space, the practice has represented clients before state crime and corruption commissions. The team is jointly led by Avryl Lattin in Sydney, who combines white-collar experience with regulatory expertise, and the Perth-based Jonathan Wyatt, whose regulatory practice regularly sees him defending local governments.

Practice head(s):

Avryl Lattin; Jonathan Wyatt

Work highlights

  • Managing a major internal fraud investigation involving an insurance broker and the consequential issues including legal action against the perpetrator, remediation process for customers and self-reporting to regulators.

Dentons

The white-collar and government investigations team at Dentons is known for its strong cross-border capability, benefiting from the firm's international presence and fully integrated cross-office network. The practice is particularly strong in areas such as cybersecurity, data breaches, and fraud control for both public- and private-sector clients. Sydney-based team head Ben Allen lends expertise in bribery and corruption investigations, guidelines, and regulator response, including ASIC investigations and AFP actions. Another key team member, based in Melbourne, is Robyn Chatwood, who advises on all areas of data privacy law.

Practice head(s):

Ben Allen

Key clients

Avis Budget Group

Watches of Switzerland

Work highlights

  • Advising Avis Budget Group on its global privacy and related cyber-security matters. This involves advising on data breach response plans (including advising on regulatory response and policy) and advising on digital identity verifications and cybersecurity implications.
  • Update a Global Hospitality and Leisure Company’s precedent licensing agreements across Australia to take into account the new laws relating to whistleblowers, anti-bribery, and corruption and privacy transfers. Provided the updates and ancillary advice.
  • Advising on digital identity verification, fraud prevention, and cybersecurity implications arising from sale of real property transactions. Assisted a global provider of leading software-based identity verification technology to draft a precedent licensing agreement and negotiate the first agreement for a strategic partnership with a leading platform for real estate transactions.

DLA Piper

DLA Piper fields a bench of lawyers who handle a wide range of work in the white-collar crime space. Brisbane-based practice head Natalie Caton regularly advises multinational clients across industries such as energy and mining, financial services, agriculture, food and drink, health, gaming, and infrastructure. Made up to partner in May 2020, Jonathon Ellis in Sydney has experience advising clients in the technology, financial services, defence, and aerospace sectors. In other team news, investigations expert Rani John departed for Ashurst in November 2019.

Practice head(s):

Natalie Caton

Other key lawyers:

Gowri Kangeson; Jonathon Ellis

Work highlights

  • Assisting on a continuing basis an Australian globally recognised leader in the development of artificial intelligence, with the creation and implementation of its global anti-bribery and corruption programme.
  • Providing this global technology company with advice in relation to Australian aspects of its compliance framework including in relation to anti-bribery and corruption, modern slavery and the development of its Australian whistle-blower policy.
  • Developing the client’s Australian modern slavery programme in accordance with the requirements of Australia’s recently enacted Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth).

Minter Ellison

The anti-bribery and corruption (ABC) offering at Minter Ellison operates closely with the firm's FSR team and has a strong client base of financial services institutions and insurance providers. The ABC team advises on complex matters, including alleged breaches of corporate and securities law, cartel operation, and market manipulation. Advisory work relating to the implementation of anti-money laundering policies is another strength of the practice. The Sydney-based James Beaton heads up the department, and is a disputes specialist, with experience in contentious compliance and regulatory issues.

Practice head(s):

James Beaton

Other key lawyers:

Ross Freeman

Clifford Chance

Ben Luscombe and Angela Pearsall co-head the Clifford Chance litigation and dispute resolution team which includes the regulatory and white-collar crime expertise. Pearsall's broad litigation practice includes contentious regulatory disputes, defending professional services firms, and she is a specialist in financial reporting disputes. Litigator Tim Grave undertakes a range of matters, such as contentious regulatory cases, investigations by ASIC in relation to allegations of foreign bribery, and also a high-profile case of an alleged conspiracy to commit insider trading offences.

Practice head(s):

Ben Luscombe; Angela Pearsall

Other key lawyers:

Tim Grave

Key clients

Rio Tinto

An international bank

Churchill Mining

The Managing Director of ForexCT, a provider of forex and CFD trading services.

Work highlights

  • Acts for the former Chairman of Forge Group Limited in the defence of proceedings brought in the Supreme Court of New South Wales (Commercial List) arising from the collapse of the Forge Group, and related examination proceedings in the Supreme Court of Western Australia.
  • Acting for EY in defence of proceedings brought in the Supreme Court of Queensland by LM Investment Management Limited (In Liquidation) (LMIM) as responsible entity for the LM First Mortgage Income Fund (Receivers and Managers Appointed) (Receiver Appointed) (Fund). The proceedings impugn the conduct by EY of 14 separate financial audits and review, and compliance plan audit engagements carried out in respect of the Fund,
  • Advising Credit Suisse on parallel criminal and civil tax and financial regulatory investigations by a number of government authorities and regulators including in the UK, Australia, and Continental Europe.

Johnson Winter & Slattery

Johnson Winter & Slattery handles all aspects of white-collar crime, internal and external investigations, and its expertise extends to cross-border criminal matters, extraditions, and trade sanctions cases. The firm is equally well regarded for its approach to client relationships; one client reported 'true friendships can be developed and maintained.' Robert Wyld is well known for the breadth of his expertise – both domestic and international. In addition to commercial and criminal litigation, regulatory investigations, fraud, and corruption cases, he is also advising the International Bar Association; providing ongoing pro-bono work for the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association in respect of implementing the Anti-Corruption Guidelines.

Practice head(s):

Robert Wyld

Testimonials

A legal tour de force in Australia and in the wider Asian community with immensely capable lawyers and individuals with whom true friendships can be developed and maintained.’

‘Outstanding individuals lead the firm – most notably Robert Johnston and of course Robert Wyld who is one of the world’s premier anti-corruption legal experts.’

Key clients

Paul Casamento, former director of Sinclair Knight Merz

IBA and OECD

International Bar Association

Work highlights

  • Acting for a former SKM Director, Mr Casamento, in a foreign bribery prosecution, the first in Australia proceeding to a contested criminal trial.  Criminal proceedings have been commenced in the Local Court of New South Wales.
  • Acting as the International Bar Association and OECDIBA co-lead on the Presidential Task Force with the OECD on the Role of Lawyers in International Commercial Structures.
  • Working with Integrity Watch in Afghanistan to survey the state of the Afghan judiciary and the public perceptions of judicial corruption and seeking to create a framework for improved transparency and integrity in the administration of justice in Afghanistan.