British American Tobacco's 'Document Retention Policy'
British American Tobacco (BAT) suffered a major legal setback after a Sydney, Australia judge found that the company's "document retention policy," under which sensitive documents were shredded, had been developed "in furtherance of the commission of a fraud."
In a case before the New South Wales Dust Diseases Tribunal, Justice Jim Curtis heard uncontested evidence from former British American Tobacco Australasia (BATA) solicitor Frederick T. Gulson that the policy was designed so that the company could shred potentially damaging documents. Curtis said that the policy created "the pretence of a rational non-selective housekeeping policy." The case before the tribunal heard argument on whether BATA should bear part of the compensation costs of a lung cancer victim who was a smoker and was exposed to asbestos. BATA had been directed to produce relevant documents for a trial slated to start on June 26, 2006.
In early July 2006 BATA announced that it had reached an out of court settlement in the case. BATA issued a two-sentence media release which announced the case, over sharing the compensation costs with the former employer of a lung cancer victim, had been withdrawn "on terms satisfactory" to the tobacco company. The settlement, which does "not include payment to or by either party", has legal observers baffled. "There will be no further comment by either party," BATA concluded.
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Related SourceWatch articles
- British American Tobacco Australasia, "Brambles Australia Ltd vs British American Tobacco Australia Services Ltd (BATAS)" Media Release, July 5, 2006.
- BAT Records Management Presentation December, 1994. Bates No. 325111242-325111244. (Describes rationale for document destruction, including legal rationale)
- Justice Jim Curtis , "Brambles Australia Ltd v British American Tobacco Australia Services Ltd (2006) New South Wales Dust Diseases Tribunal, May 30, 2006. (Sub req'd).
- Elisabeth Sexton, "Judge tells tobacco giant to hand over documents", Sydney Morning Herald, May 30, 2006.
- Susannah Moran, "Tobacco defence shredded", Australian Financial Reivew, May 31, 2006.
- Marcus Priest, "Smokescreen fails to deter judgement", Australian Financial Review, June 2, 2006. (Sub req'd).
- Elisabeth Sexton, , "Ifs, butts and big bucks", Sydney Morning Herald, June 3, 2006.
- British American Tobacco, "Brambles Australia Ltd vs British American Tobacco Australia Services Ltd (BATAS)", Media Release, July 5, 2006.
- Elisabeth Sexton, "Tobacco giant sidesteps claim", Sydney Morning Herald, July 6 2006.