WESTPAC Banking Corporation has been ordered to open up its books in relation to an alleged multi-million dollar fraud.
Levitt Robinson Solicitors brought a “preliminary discovery” application against Westpac on behalf of the victims of a financial scheme designed and operated by Sydney financier Tony Famularo and involving St George Bank (now owned by Westpac).
In support of their application, Levitt Robinson argued that their client, Erutuf Pty Ltd, which invested in Famularo’s scheme, had a right to Westpac’s confidential documents on the basis that they may assist their client’s case.
On Thusday, Acting Justice Henric Nicholas of the Supreme Court of NSW directed Westpac to hand over the records of the alleged scam.
In a 19-page judgement, Acting Justice Nicholas stated, “In my opinion, the evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that the plaintiff may be entitled to bring a claim for a relief against the defendant arising out of its involvement in a contravention by Famularo…”
Acting Justice Nicholas’ judgment helps clarify the poorly understood and rarely utilised laws surrounding preliminary discovery applications.
The most recent significant decision regarding to consider preliminary discovery was a judgment of the NSW Court of Appeal in the 2010 case of Hatfield v TCN Channel 9.
“This week’s decision is a victory for regular Australians who have become victims of corporate wrongdoing,” said Levitt Robinson Class Action Division head Stephanie Carmichael.
Ms Carmichael added that, “All too often, defendants with deep pockets refuse to hand over important documents until the victims have gone through several rounds of expensive litigation.”
“It’s particularly unfair when the financial hardship of the litigants was caused by the corporation in the first place.”
As Ms Carmichael explained, “Preliminary discovery orders allow litigants to access important evidence without having to front up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
“Thanks to this decision, complex commercial disputes can now be settled much more quickly and cheaply.”