Derhalli was miffed when his year-on-year remuneration dwindled from £2m to just £350,000. He had been working as a glorified debt collector, clawing back millions of dollars invested by Lehman in Russian bonds.
You’d be angry too. But what set this case apart was the ‘spin’ unleashed by the claimant. Derhalli retained the services of a PR firm – presumably in the hope of frightening Lehman into agreeing a settlement – which handed out backgrounders to the case and even emailed transcripts from the court sessions.
Firms have had a taste of this sort of thing before, but not on this scale. Strong-arm tactics were employed during the Unilever pension fund case which pitted Carol Galley of Mercury Asset Management against Unilever’s Wendy Mayall. The case was settled out-of-court – but not before all manner of embarrassing detail had been laid bare.
Last year, Schroders paid out £1.5m to Julie Bower, who brought a claim for unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination. Her line manager’s appraisal read: ‘Had cancer, been a pain, now pregnant’.
The previous year, Deutsche Bank paid an estimated £500,000 to settle a similar case brought by a former employee, Kay Swinburne.
Investment banks are brutal places to work, and are loath to see their grubby workings seep out into the real world. A photocall outside the High Court is one way to get their attention. But if they cave in too easily, everyone will be calling in the lawyers. And they’re rich enough already.
- Jon Ashworth is business features editor at The Times.