Adopting Model Litigant Principles – The BNZ experience
This month we had a chat to Dione Miller, Head of Legal – Dispute Resolution, Investigations and Regulatory at the Bank of New Zealand, about their model litigant principles.
Dione notes that it wasn’t that adopting the principles changed their approach, rather that the principles articulated and formalised a way of working that could then be shared easily with in-house lawyers across the organisation, with external law firms and with parties.
Adopted in March 2020, the principles apply to civil litigation conducted by or involving BNZ.
Recognising the power imbalance likely to be present in many of their disputes, the bank commits to promptness and efficiency and is explicit in articulating the need to be fair to parties who may have fewer resources to litigate a legitimate claim. With early resolution at the forefront of the approach, alternatives to avoiding or resolving litigation are favoured with an emphasis on avoiding strategies that will unnecessarily elongate proceedings.
“As far as we can tell, we are the first bank in New Zealand to adopt model litigant principles”, says Dione and notes that their development was positively received at the executive team level, by external law firms and by staff within the organisation.
The principles don’t just clearly articulate what the bank will do, they also make it clear that their use does not preclude the bank from taking legitimate steps available to them when necessary. These “carve outs” are documented adding to the transparency of the approach.
Though more commonly adopted by government entities or regulators, Dione notes that the principles work well in the banking industry and could be applied to all types of organisations. Whilst the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry in Australia led to the creation of similar models in many of the Australian banks, the approach here has been proactive rather than reactive. Dione noted that it made good business sense to adopt these types of principles as part of overall good governance and to meet corporate social obligations.
So how will BNZ measure the success or otherwise of the recently adopted principles? Essentially, a review of their qualitative data and customer and internal team reaction will provide feedback on an ongoing basis.
In-house lawyers at BNZ are happy to share their experience with any other organisations who are interested in adopting a similar framework. If you would like to know more or to obtain a copy of the model litigant principles, please contact [email protected].