Court to hand down former CBA IT exec bribery sentence on Friday

Judge D Arnott will be handing down his decision on former CBA employee Keith Hunter, who pleaded guilty to acts of bribery.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor on

Former Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) IT executive Keith Hunter will have his fate determined tomorrow in district court in Sydney, where he is facing charges relating to bribery.

Lawyers representing 62-year-old Hunter requested that in handing down his sentence, Judge D Arnott take into consideration "special circumstances", including that it is Hunter's first time in custody, his age, his isolation from family and friends, and the clinically diagnosed depression that he is currently suffering from.

While no decision has yet been made, Judge Arnott noted on Thursday that Hunter's moral culpability in the matter has been reduced slightly because he thought CBA would benefit from the deals he admitted to making.

Defence argued Hunter has been "completely honest" since pleading guilty to the charges in question. It was also argued that Hunter was, and is again now, prior to the period in question, of "good character", with the defence claiming he just "got involved" in immoral activities.

While he was manager of IT engineering at CBA, Hunter used his position to sign contracts with cloud provider ServiceMesh, even when services were not required by the bank, or could be acquired from elsewhere.

Hunter's defence said on Thursday this was due to the impending sale of ServiceMesh to Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), which saw the California-based firm purchased on the basis of its profits.

Hunter was arrested and charged with two counts of bribery in March last year as part of an ongoing joint investigation between the New South Wales Police's fraud and cybercrime squad and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Police alleged at the time that he and another former CBA employee Jon Waldron were involved in accepting more than $1.5 million in suspected corrupt payments from ServiceMesh.

At the time, Hunter pleaded not guilty to two counts of bribery and was granted bail on the condition that he surrender his passport, report to police daily, and is not to enter an airport.

In a parallel case, Hunter agreed to settle charges in the United States in September that he participated in the scheme to defraud CSC of approximately $98 million. The US Securities and Exchange Commission noted that CSC's former executive vice president of cloud computing bribed Hunter to have CBA enter into contracts in 2013 and 2014, which resulted in the CSC executive receiving an earn-out payment.

The SEC's complaint further alleged that the CSC executive, a majority shareholder of ServiceMesh, received over $30 million of the additional $98 million earn-out payment, and funnelled at least $630,000 to Hunter for his role in the fraudulent scheme.

Crown argued on Thursday that the defence has painted Hunter as "more of a follower, rather than a leader" and pointed to the breadth of his role at CBA to argue the opposite.

It was said that Hunter held a highly paid executive position at CBA, which came with a lot of responsibility, including a budget and staff.

"He was someone that could make lots of decisions and be trusted to make decisions," Crown argued. "A number of those decisions he made independently. At the end of the day, Mr Hunter admitted to signing off on these deals."

Earning AU$1 million plus share entitlements while at CBA, Crown argued that Hunter was in fact motivated to get "higher compensation".

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