An oil trader fired by Glencore International Plc (GLEN)’s London unit for “alcohol-related issues” sued the company for shares worth at least $1.2 million.
Andrew Kearns was fired in October 2010 after missing meetings following an evening out with clients on a Singapore business trip, his lawyers said in an August court filing released this week. Kearns, who made $225,000 a year plus a bonus of about $300,000, said he doesn’t have an alcohol problem and was singled out because he disagreed with managers and was owed a bonus in shares.
Glencore sold $10 billion in stock in an initial public offering in May of last year, making at least five of its executives billionaires, including Chief Executive Officer Ivan Glasenberg. The Baar, Switzerland-based commodities trading firm has made a 21.4 billion-pound ($34.5 billion) takeover bid for Xstrata Plc (XTA) that would create the fourth-largest mining company.
“Other employees have a worse attendance record and frequently drink more alcohol,” Kearns said in court documents.
In an October 2010 letter explaining the dismissal, Glencore told him: “There have been a number of incidents in the past where your performance, conduct and attendance have fallen short of the required standard due to alcohol related issues.”
Michael Duggan, a lawyer for Kearns, referred requests for comment to another attorney in the case, Sarah Rushton, who didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail. Glencore said in a statement that it denied the allegations in the lawsuit and would defend itself in full.
Kearns said he was unaware of the meetings and was suffering from jet-lag as a result of the flight to Singapore.
When he left Trafigura AG to join Glencore in 2009, Kearns said he gave up a “golden handcuffs” bonus worth $1.2 million in share options and was promised a stake in Glencore of similar value. He is seeking the value of the Glencore stock at the time of its flotation, in addition to salary and benefits for his notice period.
Glencore’s culture includes “frequent entertaining of clients at which alcohol is consumed,” Kearns said in the court filing. “Indeed a number of employees have been inebriated whilst at work.”
Kearns said he had been referred to a Glencore company doctor because of the concerns about his attendance, and had been told to “take things easier.” The doctor didn’t find any alcohol problems and referred him to a counselor, he said.
Kearns claimed he was awarded Glencore shares which were held in an employee benefit trust. Under the trust’s terms, the shares could be revoked if an employee left the company.
The case is Andrew Stephen Kearns v. Glencore UK Ltd., High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, HQ12X03294
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