Kelvin Wong and Debra Mao,(Bloomberg)
Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal ordered a trial for former Bank of America Corp. distressed debt trader Sunny Tadjudin’s claim for HK$10.9 million ($1.4 million) in damages over her 2007 firing.
A lower court’s decision to strike out her claim that she was fired by the bank to avoid paying her performance bonus “cannot be dismissed offhand,” Court of Appeal Judges Maria Yuen, William Stone and Azizul Suffiad said today. No trial date was set.
Tadjudin sued Bank of America in 2008, alleging she was fired on Aug. 28, 2007 so that her then-manager could avoid awarding her an annual discretionary bonus and “thus achieving a higher bonus for himself,” according to court documents. The Court of First Instance in July dismissed her claim and said the bank wasn’t bound to pay the bonus under Hong Kong law and the terms of her contract.
Tadjudin, who worked for the bank’s distressed debt trading group from June 2000 to August 2007, declined to comment on the case through her lawyer, William Leung.
She had argued that the bank had an implied duty to pay bonuses in a manner that wasn’t “irrational, perverse or arbitrary.”
“We are very confident that the claim against us will be held to be without merit,” said Mark Tsang, a Hong Kong-based spokesman for Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America.
Jennifer Van Dale, an employment law partner at Baker & McKenzie LLP, said a trial could show how far courts will go to recognize rights not specified in legislation or contracts.
Judge Stone said in today’s ruling that current Hong Kong employment law isn’t the “high watermark of employee protection” and accepted Tadjudin lawyer’s argument it’s “no more than the lowest common denominator.”
The case is CACV173/2009 in Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal.
--Editors: Douglas Wong, Joost Akkermans