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UPDATE 1-Australia corporate regulator "very alive" to allegations against Crown Resorts

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SYDNEY, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Australia’s corporate watchdog said on Friday it was “very alive” to alleged failures of corporate governance at casino giant Crown Resorts Ltd raised at a regulatory inquiry, and that it may open its own investigation.

A gambling regulator inquiry in recent weeks has heard Crown’s directors and one-third owner James Packer admit to issuing misleading public statements, giving Packer confidential trading information despite having no formal role and failing to act on warnings that could have stopped company staff from being jailed in China in 2016.

The inquiry has also heard that Crown’s former chairman has declined to cooperate.

“We’re certainly very alive to the matters that are being covered by that inquiry, we are watching that carefully,” Cathie Armour, head of financial services and corporate regulation at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), told a parliamentary hearing.

“We have seen the reports that there may potentially be a referral to us,” she said. “If there is a referral made to us, we of course will go and investigate the matter further.”

Australia’s financial crime agency said this week it was investigating Crown over suspicion it failed to comply with anti-money-laundering protocols at its Melbourne casino.

ASIC has previously declined to comment on the inquiry, which was set up to decide if Crown should be allowed to keep its license to operate a casino in Sydney, where it plans to open a A$2.2 billion ($1.6 billion) resort in December.

At the parliamentary hearing on Friday, ASIC’s Armour said the regulator’s “approach is not to comment on matters that we may be considering in a broader investigative sense”.

At its annual general meeting on Thursday, shareholders voted against Crown’s remuneration report, giving them the right to remove its board if there is a similar vote next year. ($1 = 1.4049 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and William Mallard)

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