Westpac New Zealand has settled its dispute with investigative journalist Nicky Hager over the breach of his privacy in providing his banking details to the police.
Westpac says it apologises to Hager and has paid him an undisclosed sum of money to compensate him “for our part in the distress these events have caused him and his family” and a contribution towards Hager’s costs.
In September 2014, the New Zealand Police asked Westpac for Hager’s banking records in the course of investigating the source of Hager’s book, Dirty Politics, and the bank simply handed them over, believing the Privacy Act allowed this, Westpac says.
“However, in the light of the public discussion of Mr Hager’s and other cases, it is clear that bank customers reasonably expect that in similar circumstances such data will be kept private,” Westpac says.
“Following this event, Westpac implemented a new procedure for responding to police information requests.
“Except in extremely limited circumstances (such as when the police are searching for a missing person), the release of our customers’ information now requires a production order,” it says.
The police settled with Hager in June last year for multiple breaches of his rights, including the raid on his home in October 2014 which the High Court ruled was “fundamentally unlawful.”
The police acknowledged they had attempted to breach Hager’s journalistic privilege in multiple ways and that they unlawfully obtained his private information from third parties including Westpac.
The police settled with Hager last year, describing it as substantial damages and a substantial contribution to his costs, without disclosing the amount.