4 Pump Court to face Brick Court in bank bonus litigation

Stewarts Law has instructed 4 Pump Court’s Nigel Tozzi QC to represent 72 bankers who have brought a multi-million pound claim for unpaid bonuses against Dresdner Kleinwort, which was taken over by Commerzbank last year.

Linklaters’ managing associates Paul Quain and Nicola Rabson have instructed Brick Court Chambers’ Mark Howard QC to defend the claim for the German bank.

The group of bankers launched a High Court writ yesterday claiming they are owed a combined €33m (£29m) in bonuses that the bank had previously agreed to honour.

It is the largest case of it kind to be brought through the London High Court and signals the beginning of an anticipated wave of litigation against big banks from employees who have missed out on lucrative bonuses.

In the writ, the claimants allege that in June last year the bank had informed the Financial Services Authority that it had taken action to mitigate the risk of significant staff defections by creating a staff retention scheme, which would include a minimum bonus pool.

Instead of receiving their traditional Christmas bonus letter, the claimants were told that any bonus would be subject to a so-called material adverse change clause, effectively meaning that the bonus would be paid in February pending the financial performance of Dresdner Kleinwort. The writ alleges that the letter was a “complete surprise”.

The failure of Dresdner Kleinwort to pay bonus deals as stated in December “was wrongful and in breach of express and implied terms” of the employment contract, it is alleged.

Last month Mishcon de Reya won compensation for a quartet of Dresdner Kleinwort bankers who had their bonuses withheld after their employer was bought by Commerzbank (31 August 2009).