Ex-CBA exec heads Macquarie’s ‘Project Linus’

Macquarie Group has hired a former Commonwealth Bank executive to handle its regime of regulatory sanctions.

The executive, Michelle Weber, had been at CBA during the period when the bank was managing the controversial Commonwealth Financial Services sanctions program before she joined Macquarie.

Now she is, according to internal Macquarie emails, “heading up the EU program to directly address ASIC’s concerns”.

The corporate regulator hit Macquarie Group with Enforceable Undertakings last year after an investigation found chronic compliance failures in the bank’s retail stockbroking division.

Ahead of the sanctions, BusinessDay had revealed evidence from an internal report at Macquarie Private Wealth, which found more than 80 per cent of the division’s private client advisors were in breach of compliance standards.

Now, the appointment of Ms Weber is likely to bring further controversy as revelations in the Weekend Age and Sydney Morning Herald showed how the regulators were slow to react to whistleblower complaints and systematic misconduct at Commonwealth Financial Services.

The group of whistleblowers which codenamed themselves ‘The Ferrets’ contacted ASIC in October 2008 with detailed information outlining serious problems in the bank’s financial planning unit.

The tip-off concerned one of the bank’s top financial planners, Don Nguyen, who had 1300 clients and up to $300 million in client money, had engaged in systemic misconduct and his files were being ”cleaned up”. It took the regulator 16 months to take action.

According to a Macquarie source the program headed up by Ms Weber has been named ”Project Linus”.

The AFR reported yesterday executive departures at Macquarie such as head of Macquarie Private Bank Jay O’Neil, Macquarie Private Wealth (MPW) chief operating officer Natasha Yeoh and MPW’s head of risk Brad Veale.

“The looming exits will follow the recently announced departures of Macquarie’s former banking and financial services (BFS) boss Peter Maher, BFS chief investment officer Craig Swanger, executive director Matt Rady and communications executive Irene O’Brien.”

A Macquarie spokeswoman declined to comment on the appointment of Ms Weber due to privacy reasons.

An email to staff regarding Ms Weber’s appointment dated February 22, says:

“Michelle has joined Macquarie to head up the EU program to directly address ASIC’s concerns. Michelle brings experience across financial advice and program management and has led a number of large scale transformational initiatives, including most recently the Commonwealth Financial Planning EU.”

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