Billionaire James Packer appeared last week in front of the royal commission to testify on the alleged failure to oversight the corporate governance at Crown Resorts’ Perth. Packer is a former executive chair of Burswood Limited, Crown Resorts’ subsidiary for Western Australia.
Hearing on Corporate Failures
Packer attended the hearing via video link on Friday morning. The questioning was run by Patricia Cahill, a counsel assisting the commission. Billionaire reportedly spoke slowly and had issues remembering events that occurred while he was in the executive position at the casino. However, he did admit to certain failings. According to his testimony, Packer didn’t attend the company’s board meeting for almost four years while he was residing overseas. In addition, he and his associates failed to make sure that the board has a written charter.
Series of Inquiries
The royal commission in Western Australia is the latest in the series of inquiries into Crown Resorts’ operations. The Nine Entertainment’s Crown Unmasked series aired in 2019 already sparked two previous investigations. The series made allegations of criminal actions and money laundering in the group’s casinos in Melbourne and Perth. In February, an inquiry in New South Wales determined that the group was involved in money laundering through bank accounts linked to Melbourne and Perth casinos in addition to criminal groups being involved in junkets. Furthermore, the royal commission reported to the Victorian Government with findings group’s unpaid taxes and failure to minimize risk for gambling addicts.
Packer Admits that Mistakes were Made
At the moment, James Packer is the owner of 37% of the Crown Resorts. On Friday, the royal commission recommended that he sells 5% of the stake, to which he agreed. Packer stepped down as the executive chairman of the company in 2018. While at the company, he also served as a chair of Burswood from 2014 to 2016. At the hearing, he admitted that during that time, he didn’t attend any of the board meetings after 2013 when he left the country. Still, he received regular updates from Barry Felstead, the Crowns’ head of Australian casino resorts.
Packer conceded that, in retrospect, he should have attended the meetings or resigned from his position. The lack of board charter as a result of failure by both him and Rowen Cragie, the chief executive at the time. Packer said that they both overlooked the need for such a document. He also added that the board at the time had no members with expertise in anti-money laundering and financial crime risk management. Packer also said that they managed to establish a proper culture at the company which landed them the title of the WA employer of the year in 2015. However, at some point, the culture slipped, which was partly his fault. He refused the notion that the company was involved in money laundering.
The investigations in Victoria and New South Wales found the Crown not suitable to be a casino license holder. Still, the commission did not put forward an official recommendation that to revoke the company’s license. At the moment, hearings in Pert are still in progress.