SocGen to battle fired banker in UK Supreme Court

Tue Oct 16, 2012 7:03pm EDT
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By Kirstin Ridley

LONDON (Reuters) - A senior banker, who says he was fired for being too successful, is taking his 12.5 million euro-plus ($16 million) lawsuit against France's Societe Generale (SOGN.PA: Quote) to the UK's highest court in a case that could re-draft employment law.

Raphael Geys, a Belgian national and a former managing director of SocGen's European fixed income sales in London, is suing for breach of contract after France's second-largest bank summarily fired him in 2007 without paying his full severance package.

The case might not muster much public sympathy at a time of political and regulatory anger at rich banker rewards and a culture of greed in a scandal-hit industry that only stayed afloat because of huge taxpayer bailouts.

But the case, to be heard by the Supreme Court on Wednesday and Thursday, is being watched closely by employment lawyers because it will partly focus on whether one-off payments to fired staff in lieu of a written notice period -- so-called PILONs or payments in lieu of notice -- constitute the end of a contract if paid without notifying staff.

"This case raises issues of significant importance concerning the termination of employment contracts -- the Supreme Court's judgment is likely to be of considerable interest to employees and employers alike," said Tom Custance, from UK law firm Fox Williams, who is representing Geys.

The five Supreme Court judges are not expected to make any judgment for some weeks, although lawyers are hoping for a decision before Christmas.

SocGen originally offered Geys -- who says gross revenues at his division more than doubled between 2005 and 2007 to around 440 million euros -- 7.9 million euros to cover contractual termination payments.

But when he refused the offer, the bank withdrew it, arguing his decision to sue meant he was no longer entitled to the deal under his former contract.   Continued...

View of Societe Generale bank's headquarters in La Defense near Paris February 16, 2012. REUTERS/Charles Platiau