ANZ is being investigated for alleged criminal cartel conduct during an August 2015 institutional share placement, the bank and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) confirmed this morning.
The ACCC said it expects the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) to lay charges against ANZ, ANZ Group treasurer Rick Moscati, two other companies and other individuals.
Deutsche Bank and Citigroup Global Markets Australia are the two other companies against which ACCC expects charges to be laid.
ASIC is also investigating whether the joint lead managers of ANZ's underwritten institutional placement (on 7 August 2015) should have stated that about 25.5 million shares of the 80.8 million shares in the placement were taken up by the joint lead managers. This represents about 31.5% of the placement.
"The charges will involve alleged cartel arrangements relating to trading in ANZ shares following an ANZ institutional share placement in August 2015," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.
"It will be alleged that ANZ and the individuals were knowingly concerned in some or all of the conduct."
ANZ has denied breaking the law. It says the 25.5 million shares the joint managers allegedly took up were only 0.91% of the total shares on issue at the time.
ANZ chief risk officer Kevin Corbally said: "We believe ANZ acted in accordance with the law in relation to the placement and on that basis the bank intends to defend both the company and our employee."
ANZ said it was notified by ACCC late yesterday and is co-operating with ASIC in the investigation.
ACCC and ANZ have both said they will not comment any further.
The ACCC investigates cartel conduct, manages the immunity process and, in respect of civil cartel contraventions, takes proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia.
The CDPP is responsible for prosecuting criminal cartel offences in accordance with the Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth. The ACCC refers serious cartel conduct to the CDPP for consideration of prosecution in accordance with the memorandum of understanding between the CDPP and the ACCC regarding serious cartel conduct.
This article was updated at 11.59am, 12:54pm.