Whistleblowing through disclosure of confidential internal memoranda and correspondence from legal advisers revealed that Partnership Pacific, a subsidiary of Australia's second largest retail bank, had arguably misled some customers and behaved improperly to others.

The consequences of that impropriety included personal bankruptcies and loss of family farms. Former Westpac executive John McLennan faced substantial legal costs (an Australian court ruled in favour of the bank regarding copyright and confidentiality breaches); the damage to the bank's reputation was intangible. It has been suggested that perceived mishandling of public relations contributed to the resignation of the Westpac CEO.

The bank incurred no government penalties but exposure of the documentation in Parliament after suppression orders initially prevented publication in the media appears to have led to better treatment of some affected customers.

The Affair features in Edna Carew's Westpac: The Bank that Broke the Bank (Sydney: Doubleday 1997), Quentin Dempsters's Whistleblowers and Graham Hand's Naked Among Cannibals: What Really Happens Inside Australian Banks (St Leonards: Allen & Unwin 2001). Anne Lampe's 1997 ACIJ 'Westpac Letters' Symposium paper offers a journalist's perspective.

Read more about Whistleblowing Cases: http://www.caslon.com.au/whistlecasesnote3.htm

Transcript of "Banks Behaving Badly": http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/s72783.htm

The Banks and John Howard by Dr Evan Jones - "The Westpac Letters": http://www.bfcsa.com.au/index.php/entry/the-banks-and-john-howard-by-dr-evan-jones-the-westpac-letters