Oxfam says Big Four banks involved in unethical deals


AUSTRALIA'S largest four banks are in the crosshairs of international aid organisation Oxfam, after it released a report accusing Westpac, ANZ, NAB and the Commonwealth Bank of funding shonky firms in Cambodia, Brazil, Papua New Guinea and other parts of Asia.

Its research, published in Banking on Shaky Ground, suggested Westpac was supporting unethical logging in PNG, that ANZ backed a sugar firm using child labour and NAB helped fund Asian palm oil giant Wilmar, accused of grabbing land in both Indonesia and Malaysia since 2011.

Oxfam Australia chief executive Dr Helen Szoke said despite them pushing the benefits of investing in Asia, banks often did not fully understand risks in the region.

"This involvement has also resulted in billions of dollars of exposure for everyday Australians who have their money in accounts with these banks, or who own bank shares directly or through their superannuation funds," Dr Szoke said.

None of the four banks promised to take any specific action as a result of the report, although each released statements saying they would review the allegations.

Westpac "welcomed" the information, vowing to work with Oxfam to consider the allegations.

A spokesman for ANZ said some of the accusations were almost a decade old, and long addressed.

The Commonwealth Bank released a statement saying it would review the claims.

NAB would not discuss its clients or promise to review the information, but said it considers a company's "economic, environmental and social" record before offering financial help.

Topics:  banks business ethics oxfam

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