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Ex-SocGen Banker’s Severance Case Reaches U.K. Top Court

A former Societe Generale SA banker who already won 11 million euros ($14.4 million) in a severance dispute is seeking more from the bank as the case reached the U.K.’s top court -- a first for the financial-services industry.

Raphael Geys, a former managing director of European fixed-income sales at the bank, has said he is entitled to 12.5 million euros. He sued the bank in 2010 saying he was owed more than the 8 million euros in severance offered to him under the terms of his contract.

Another U.K. court ruled in 2010 that the bank didn’t “appropriately” word a November 2007 letter firing Geys. The banker has said his contract was terminated in January 2008, while the Paris-based bank claims his employment ended in November 2007, Geys’s lawyer David Cavender said at today’s Supreme Court hearing in London.

“You cannot terminate the contract of a senior employee without telling” them that it has come to an end, he said.

The two-day hearing will be the first time a financial-service industry compensation argument will be ruled on by Britain’s most-senior judges, according to Ben Wilson, a court spokesman. Bankers and traders who say they were treated unfairly by their employers during and after the financial crisis are increasingly turning to British courts and employment tribunals seeking compensation.

In May, a group of more than 100 Dresdner Kleinwort bankers won bonuses totaling about $64 million from Commerzbank AG when a judge found the German lender broke its pay promises.

Reasonable Employee

Attorneys at Herbert Smith LLP, which is representing Societe Generale, declined to comment on the case.

“No reasonable employee who had received the letter and the payment would -- objectively speaking -- not have” realized a contract was terminated, Judge Jonathan Sumption, part of the five-judge panel, said of Geys’s firing.

Geys was awarded an interim payment of about 11 million euros following his 2010 success against the bank, which was later reduced by 150,000 euros in a 2011 court of appeal decision, according to documents filed at a London court.

The Supreme Court, established in 2009, will look at two specific areas of contract and employment law related to how companies terminate workers’ contracts.

If he wins, Geys may pursue new claims against his former employer in relation to the amount of tax he paid, according to court documents filed in April 2010.

“This case raises issues of significant importance concerning the termination of employment contracts,” Tom Custance, another attorney representing Geys, said in an e-mail today. “The Supreme Court’s judgment is likely to be of considerable interest to employees and employers alike.”

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