Crown asked to change report, inquiry told

·2-min read

A consultancy firm ignored Crown's request to rephrase a report it was paid to complete following scrutiny from Victoria's gaming regulator.

Crown's chief risk officer Anne Siegers emailed partners at Deloitte with a suggested revision to their report, a royal commission was told on Wednesday.

The James Packer-backed group had asked Deloitte to review its risk management processes in 2019 to meet a Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation requirement.

Ms Siegers expressed concern the report did not reflect well on recent changes Crown had made to risk management.

"Could you please make an overall statement on the risk management program?" she asked Deloitte.

"Something like ... the risk management framework that has been rolled out for the past 18 months, combined with proposed enhancements, is appropriate for the business."

This request was ignored, counsel assisting Penny Neskovcin QC told the inquiry about whether Crown can retain a licence for its Melbourne operations.

Crown employed Ms Siegers in December 2017, following the arrest of 19 of its staff in China the year before.

The 19 were charged with gambling promotion offences, and remain the subject of an ongoing class action against Crown.

Ms Neskovcin said Deloitte did not examine how well Crown's risk management framework was actually working, because it was not asked to do so.

Instead, Crown engaged Deloitte to simply examine the program's design.

"You didn't want them to do a full and comprehensive assessment of the robustness of Crown's risk management, did you?" Ms Neskovcin asked Ms Siegers.

The risk officer responded: "No, because a lot of the elements were not in place yet, so (that) would not have been valuable".

Ms Neskovcin also asked Ms Siegers whether the firm's reference to "enhancements" was effectively a euphemism for mopping up after a mess.

She disagreed.

The inquiry was also told Crown's former chief executive officer, Ken Barton, raised concerns with Deloitte about his firm's corporate culture.

Deloitte partner Alison Whitaker met with Mr Barton in December 2020 and her notes show he was concerned about Crown employees not being able to "speak up".

Mr Barton reportedly told Ms Whitaker that the board had not been listening and responding to feedback.

Crown's middle management had also been hampered by complacency and "permafrost", the former chief said.

Ms Neskovcin said these comments suggested Mr Barton, who stepped down in February this year, viewed Crown's culture as "pretty grim".

"What you've just listed does paint a pretty grim picture," she said.

Commissioner Ray Finkelstein, a former Federal Court judge, noted that Mr Barton's concerns highlighted "quite serious problems".

The royal commission was set up by Daniel Andrews' Labor government after a NSW inquiry found Crown unsuitable to operate its newly-built casino in Sydney's Barangaroo.

The inquiry continues on Thursday with further evidence from Ms Siegers.

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