Bloomberg News

Ex-Credit Agricole Banker Claims Threats, Betrayal in Bonus Case

February 22, 2012

Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- A senior investment banker at Credit Agricole SA told a London tribunal he was threatened and asked to quit after reporting his manager to human resources.

Edward Willems, the French lender’s former deputy head of fixed-income markets, said in a multi-million-pound claim that he lost out on bonuses and was eventually dismissed after making what he believed were confidential complaints about his boss, Guy Laffineur.

“I was completely betrayed,” Willems said at a the employment tribunal hearing today.

The banker said he made several disclosures about Laffineur’s conduct under whistle-blowing rules, which protect employees from being fired or punished if they reveal malpractice in the public interest. While damages for wrongful dismissal are generally capped at about 72,000 pounds ($113,000), employment tribunals can award unlimited amounts in whistle-blower cases.

Willems said he told an HR representative in 2009 that Laffineur was blocking his efforts to overhaul the fixed-income division in the wake of the financial crisis. He claims that the day after that discussion took place, his boss “stormed” into his office and appeared “physically threatening,” Credit Agricole’s lawyer Nicholas Randall told the tribunal today.

‘Have to Leave’

Willems was told “you have to leave,” according to a witness statement he gave to the tribunal. Randall said Laffineur, who now works at UniCredit SpA, denies this and just wanted to talk to Willems. The two men had worked together for 18 years before the 2009 dispute.

“The case is under consideration by the employment tribunal and it would be inappropriate to make any comment at this stage,” Virginie Ourceyre, a spokeswoman for Credit Agricole, said in an e-mailed statement. Laffineur declined to comment citing the ongoing case.

“Your sole purpose in bringing the grievances was in getting compensation, wasn’t it?” Randall asked Willems at the hearing.

Willems responded that he wanted restitution for being wronged.

According to papers filed by Willems’s lawyers, he received a bonus of about 870,000 pounds in March 2010, which he says was half what his peers at the bank were given. The following year he was awarded about 522,000 pounds.

Following the complaint, Willems was accused of expenses fraud while on “imaginary business trips” to Brazil and South Africa and was dismissed by Credit Agricole in July 2011.

“I have never been to Brazil in my life,” he said.

Jean-Yves Hocher, the chief executive officer of Credit Agricole’s investment banking unit, is scheduled to testify as a witness during the 11-day trial.

--Editors: Christopher Scinta, Anthony Aarons

To contact the reporter on this story: Kit Chellel in London at cchellel@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net


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