Employment tribunal rejects ABN Amro lawyer’s racial discrimination claims

The Central London Employment Tribunal has upheld a former ABN Amro lawyer’s unfair dismissal claim against the bank but thrown out her 41 allegations of racial discrimination.

Angela Cobbina, formerly a senior lawyer at the UK branch of the Dutch bank, blamed her employer for her miscarriage last year and said she was hounded out of her job by consistent bullying from UK ABN Amro chief executive Paul Schuilwerve (5 March 2014).

Cobbina had claimed a total of £300,000. It is not known what the damages for the unfair dismissal ruling will be.

Cobbina’s accusations that Schuilwerve’s taunts constituted discrimination and led to her miscarriage in January 2013 were wholly rejected by the tribunal.

The lawyer had said Schuilwerve had bullied her over the colour of her skin, saying he could not see her in a picture and taunting her by saying “let’s talk about all things black”.

The tribunal heard that he had used a statement by an employee about being the “black sheep of the family” to make inappropriate comments towards the lawyer, who was the only black member of the bank’s UK executive committee.

Cobbina had turned to Withers partner Emma Sanderson to bring her claims, with No5 Chambers’ Jack Feeny as counsel. ABN Amro instructed Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe head of employment Nicola Whiteley, with Matrix Chambers’ Thomas Kibling.

An ABN Amro spokesperson said: “We are pleased the judgment supports our strong belief that the various allegations of discrimination on grounds of sex, race and religion were entirely groundless.”

Sanderson said: “The tribunal found that ABN Amro was unfair and unlawful in its handling of my client’s employment. Angela has shown great courage to take on this global banking institution. Throughout these legal proceedings the bank maintained that it did nothing wrong; the tribunal disagreed.”