Claims of a toxic culture within ANZ have been labelled weak, and a publicity stunt aimed at getting multimillion-dollar settlements. McDonald Murholme Managing Director Alan McDonald provides commentary on the sensational claims of sacked ANZ traders.
See below article for further details.
‘Lawyers say sacked traders must prove ANZ Bank condoned toxic culture’ – Australian Financial Review
Employment lawyers said sensational claims by two sacked ANZ Banking Group traders that the bank’s toxic culture influenced their behaviour were weak, and a publicity stunt aimed at getting multimillion-dollar settlements.
But others, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to potential conflict of interest with ANZ, said the traders may have a case if they can prove ANZ condoned a culture of sex, drugs and alcohol.
Etienne Alexiou and Patrick O’Connor, who were fired for inappropriate behaviour last year, are suing the bank for tens of millions of dollars. They claim the bank tolerated visits to lap-dancing, drunk driving and jokes about cocaine on birthday cakes.
Employsure managing director Edward Mallett said in his view the legal case was primarily a “PR campaign” aimed at putting pressure on the bank to pay the men to drop their lawsuits.
“As it was in the David Jones case, the priority is to generate media content off it, and the legality of the claim will be secondary to the PR campaign,” he said. “They prepared this dirty laundry to be washed in public.”
But Mr Alexiou’s lawyer, Peter Punch of Carroll O’Dea, denied Mr Alexiou was seeking publicity for his case. He said Mr Alexiou did not cooperate with the publication of the original story in The Australian Financial Review and he did not wish his case to feature in the media.
“Our client [Mr Alexiou] has no intention of ventilating his claims against the bank in the media, as he believes that the proper forum for those claims is his case before the Federal Court,” Mr Punch said in an email to The Financial Review.
Holding Redlich employment lawyer Charles Power said the claim was manufactured to win a settlement from ANZ.
“It’s not an easy case to make, especially when these people are highly paid professionals. It’s not good enough to simply say, ‘Sure, I did it, but he did it too,'” he said. “I suspect this is really a case created with a view of achieving a settlement.”
CODE OF CONDUCT
McDonald Murholme managing partner Alan McDonald said the traders needed to prove the bank’s code of conduct was meaningless because not properly enforced.
“You can’t dig out of the bottom of the drawer a code which you haven’t been regularly monitoring,” he said.
In both termination letters, ANZ said the traders acted inconsistently with ANZ’s code of conduct when they used “highly offensive and inappropriate” language in emails and chat messages about strip clubs, drugs and women.
Mr Alexiou argued that the termination was unlawful because the bank had not been enforcing its own code of conduct to senior managers and traders until he was sacked.
Mr Alexiou was sacked in September 2015 for inappropriate emails and chat messages written between 2011 and 2013. During that time Mr Alexiou was promoted to head of balance sheet trading. In 2014 he was given a $5 million performance bonus.
Mr Mallett said if the case went to hearing, the traders were unlikely to find sympathy from the judge. Instead, they would be counting on ANZ offering a settlement to stop the negative publicity, he said. The case is before Justice Nye Perram of the Federal Court.
“It’s a bit like getting caught speeding by the police and saying everyone’s doing it,” he said. “They’ll be banking on the idea ANZ doesn’t want to be in the media with their senior executives going to strip clubs and drugs found in the bathrooms.”
Mr O’Connor’s lawyer, Michael Harmer of Harmers Workplace Lawyers, declined to comment.
Reference: ‘Lawyers say sacked traders must prove ANZ Bank condoned toxic culture’ – Australian Financial Review, 15th January 2016