The revolving door that mans the boss’s office at Star Entertainment continues to spin out of control. The latest to jump ship is Geoff Hogg, the interim CEO who manned the helm for only about three months.
Interim Star Entertainment CEO Geoff Hogg cheekily smiles in a public appearance. He has submitted his expected resignation to Star’s board, but details about his departure are still being finalized. (Image: The Australian)
Star is only one of Australia’s casino operators to come under fire for violating anti-money laundering (AML) and other rules. It and Crown Resorts repeatedly conducted operations they knew violated regulations.
Hogg, who became acting CEO this past June, said at one point that the violations were just “simple staff errors” and nothing too serious. Regulators disagree, accusing Star of not only breaking AML rules, but of allowing known criminals to gamble and hiding money trails.
Boss Hogg Leaving the Roost
Hogg’s control of Star was never going to be a long-term affair. Robbie Cooke, currently the managing director of Tyro Payments, was tapped to take over in June, but only following a customary regulatory review.
There is no official start date for Cooke, who will also be Star’s managing director, nor is there one for Hogg’s departure. Star announced his resignation via a filing with the Australian Securities Exchange today. It added that interim chairman Ben Heap will now be the company’s interim executive chairman.
Hogg took over for former acting CEO John O’Neill, who is also the casino operator’s former chairman of the board. He had stepped in after former CEO Matt Bekier resigned in the wake of the investigations Star has been facing across Australia.
In addition to those executives, the company has seen several others leave recently. Among these are former CFO Harry Theodore and former Chief Casino Officer Greg Hawkins.
New South Wales (NSW) recently completed its inquiry into Star and the initial assessment was that it doesn’t deserve to hold a casino license in the state. The company has until tomorrow to explain why it should continue to operate Star Sydney’s casino.
Executives Have Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Cards
Crown and Star, as well as other, smaller casino operators, actively facilitated money laundering and attempted to cover their tracks. The practices went on for years and are now coming back to damage Australia’s gaming reputation.
Despite the revelations and the fact that executives knew what was going on, no individual has faced criminal charges. Gaming regulators, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre have gone after the companies, but not the people.
This has led some to begin to wonder why the executives have a get-out-of-jail-free card. That question is now becoming the center of attention. The answer NSW, Victoria and Western Australia (WA) provide isn’t satisfying.
ABC News explains that both states have clear legal guidelines on their approaches to enforcement. In neither case can regulators go after individuals – only the casino operators.
WA has not been able to “identify findings against individuals” that would provide enough evidence “under the existing regulatory arrangements.” In NSW, the gaming regulations, by omission and possibly design, expressly prohibit “action to be taken against a former close associate” of a casino operator.
ASIC launched an investigation into Crown and several board members this past March. However, it didn’t last long. ASIC Chairman Joe Longo told the Australian Financial Review only a couple of weeks later that it had dropped the charges against 10 unidentified former Crown executives. He added that it was “the right call.”
AUSTRAC could go after some executives, but its track record doesn’t support the idea. The financial watchdog fined two banks over $1.3 billion in two years for egregious AML failures. It didn’t prosecute a single person.
Across the country, the unwritten rule is the same. Quit your post before an investigation begins and you get a free pass.
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