IT bribery case sparks US lawsuit for Commonwealth Bank

IT bribery case sparks US lawsuit for Commonwealth Bank

Ace Foundation taking CBA to court over US$2.53 million

US-based not-for-profit organisation the Ace Foundation has filed a lawsuit in a Californian court against the Commonwealth Bank.

The suit is linked to the allegations of bribery involving two former IT executives at the bank.

The two former CBA employees, Jon Waldron and Keith Hunter, are alleged to have accepted kickbacks worth millions for awarding contracts to US company ServiceMesh, a subsidiary of CSC.

The case involving Waldron and Hunter received a brief mention in Sydney Local Court this morning and has been held over until July.

The Ace Foundation said in a statement that money it advanced to Waldron and Hunter to fund their work on the organisation's projects have been frozen by the bank.

"CBA claimed that the funds were improper payments intended to be hidden from CBA even though the funds were openly deposited into CBA accounts," the court filing (PDF) states.

"CBA's allegation that the payments were somehow hidden in plain sight makes no sense and is demonstrably false."

The organisation is seeking the return of US$2.53 million.

Ace's mission statement says it provides "the essential technical foundation necessary to address the most pressing challenges facing economically distressed populations and developing nations".

Police have claimed that the organisation was used channel the alleged kickbacks to Waldron and Hunter.

"The ACE Foundation received its initial donation from Eric Pulier, a prominent entrepreneur and frequent contributor to philanthropic causes and non-profit organizations for decades," a statement from the Ace Foundation said.

Pulier was the founder of ServiceMesh and a CSC executive until his resignation last month.

He has since been sued by CSC.

CSC's lawsuit centres on alleged "unauthorised payments Mr Pulier made to two executives of Commonwealth Bank of Australia, a CSC client, shortly after he received tens of millions of dollars from CSC’s 2013 acquisition of ServiceMesh".

The Ace Foundation's court filing states [paragraph spacing added for readability]:

From May through December 2014, ACE advanced funds to Waldron and Hunter to cover project costs they would incur for ACE. ACE advanced the funds based on professional tax advice it received.

ACE was advised that donations it received in 2014 were potentially taxable because ACE would not have its tax exempt status by the end of the year, so it would be prudent for ACE to expend funds in 2014 for known projects to minimize charitable dollars being lost to taxes.

Far from being secret payments, ACE advanced funds to Waldron and Hunter to their respective bank accounts at CBA.

In late December 2014, ACE learned that CBA was taking a position that it did not approve of Waldron and Hunter assisting ACE. Upon learning this, ACE informed Waldron and Hunter that they no longer could assist ACE and requested that they return the funds advanced by ACE.

ACE redirected the work to be done by Waldron and Hunter to other consultants. Waldron and Hunter agreed to return the advances to ACE. CBA knew this, but prevented Waldron and Hunter from returning ACE's money.

CBA threatened to sue Waldron and Hunter if they returned ACE's money. When Hunter informed CBA that he was returning ACE's money to ACE, CBA made false allegations to the Australian police that the payments were illegal secret payments, even though the payments were made into accounts at CBA.

The Australian police froze the accounts of Waldron and Hunter, preventing them from returning ACE's money. As a result of CBA's interference with ACE's relationship with Waldron and Hunter, ACE has been deprived of over $2.5 million, critical funds needed by ACE to fund its projects.

ACE brings this action to recover its money that it lost due to CBA's intentional and wrongful interference with ACE's contractual relationship with its consultants.

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