ANZ bank settles debanking case with Aussie Bitcoin trader

Regulation

Bitcoiner Allan Flynn has settled his first complaint with the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) over being unilaterally debanked in 2018 due to his occupation as a Digital Currency Exchange (DCE). 

The settlement comes 20 months after the Canberra resident first filed complaints with the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal against ANZ.

In the settlement, the ANZ noted that it closed his accounts due to the risk of money laundering and terrorism funding (ML/TF) that it perceives among exchanges. It also acknowledged that the act of unbanking Flynn could “have amounted to unlawful discrimination contrary to sections 7(1)(p) and 20 of the Discrimination Act 1991.”

However ANZ denied any liability saying that if it had “discriminated against Mr. Flynn by closing his accounts, that discrimination was reasonable in the circumstances and thus lawful.”

The statement by the ANZ also admitted that it closed his account upon detecting DCE activity without contacting Flynn for further information about his activities. Flynn argues that such discrimination is unlawful per Canberra law which states that, “It is against the law for someone to discriminate against you because of your profession, trade, occupation or calling.”

Although this first battle is complete, he will take Westpac bank to the tribunal next Thursday over a second complaint.

Westpac closed his bank account in 2019 citing the same ML/TF concerns over him being a crypto trader.

Flynn told Cointelegraph the case was an important one as it will be the first time banks will be forced to say definitively whether they will serve Bitcoin traders. “All I’m asking for is a fair go,” he said.

Flynn plans to cite human rights violations by banks for discriminating against him and his occupation. He feels that this is the right path to take over calling for more regulations and hopes that a win could force policy changes nationwide or perhaps even internationally.

“A win against the banks could have wider implications for discrimination against occupations.” 

He said that a ruling by the Tribunal will enjoy widespread public scrutiny, while a settlement beforehand could help change policy due to a partial admission of guilt. He worries, however, that a loss could see more Bitcoiners unbanked.

Related: New Australian crypto legislation likely in 2022, Senator Bragg tells NFT Fest

His case is far from unique. Just last month, Rebecca Schot-Guppy, the CEO of Fintech Australia told the Senate that up to 91 members of her organization had been debanked without apparent cause or means to appeal.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) has issued increasingly specific regulations since 2015 about how DCEs must operate and be treated by the law.

Importantly, AUSTRAC has made it clear that the AML/counter-terrorism laws do not obligate banks to close the accounts of crypto traders.

Flynn believes the behavior of ANZ and Westpac suggests “the banks do not want competition,” and that if DCEs were allowed to function unimpeded, they would “break the speed limit and surpass traditional banks.”

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