- Philippe Buhannic put on six-month paid leave after allegation
- Directors sued CEO after he refused to accept banishment
TradingScreen Inc. Chief Executive Officer Philippe Buhannic was suspended after being accused of assaulting an employee, touching off a battle for control of the financial-software firm, according to court filings and a hearing transcript.
TradingScreen directors put Buhannic on a six-month paid leave earlier this month after an internal probe found “clear and convincing evidence” that Buhannic “physically assaulted” a worker in the company’s New York headquarters, according to a transcript of a state-court hearing in Delaware.
“The company is facing a six-figure damage claim by the employee,” Lewis Lazarus, a lawyer for TradingScreen board members, told Delaware Chancery Court Judge Travis Laster at the hearing in Wilmington on Tuesday. Directors are asking Laster to affirm their decision to temporarily oust Buhannic, the company’s co-founder. Lazarus said that Buhannic “denied the assault” claims, according to the transcript.
Board members sued earlier this month after Buhannic refused to accept his banishment. He e-mailed employees and challenged the board’s right to suspend him and install Director Pierre Schroeder to run the company in his absence, the court filings show.
Buhannic didn’t immediately return calls and e-mails seeking comment on the assault allegations.
‘Culture of Respect’
The company announced Buhannic’s leave and the creation of an executive committee in a statement on Wednesday. The committee is made up of three board members: Schroeder, Piero Grandi and Robert Trudeau.
“TradingScreen promotes a culture of respect for all of our employees, customers, vendors and other stakeholders,” Cristina Dolan, a spokeswoman for TradingScreen, said in an e-mailed statement. “The company does not tolerate offensive or disrespectful behavior. With regard to specific allegations, the company has no additional comment.”
Dolan declined to comment on the reason for Buhannic’s temporary ouster. The 59-year-old executive continues to serve as a TradingScreen director, but has been temporarily removed as board chairman, according to court filings.
TradingScreen sells software that helps money managers trade. Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, offers trading systems to clients and is a competitor of TradingScreen.
CEO of the Year
Buhannic, a veteran of the electronic trading industry, co-founded TradingScreen with his brother and Joseph Ahearn in 1999. Earlier in April, before the allegations were brought against Buhannic, he won the CEO of the Year for Innovation in Trading Solutions Award from IAIR Group, a European research institute and publishing house.
Buhannic has “attempted to bully and cajole employees” in his bid to retake control of the board and has also worked to get witnesses to the employee assault “to change their story,” Lazarus told Laster at Tuesday’s hearing, according to the transcript.
TradingScreen’s directors are concerned that if Buhannic regains control of the financial-software maker it would cause “untold harm on the company and would place employees in economic peril,” the lawyer added, according to the transcript.
Michael Pittenger, a Wilmington, Delaware-based lawyer representing Buhannic, said his client had to fly back from London to dispute the assault claims leveled against him last month. It’s “just an assault allegation, and we look forward to” addressing the matter in court, the lawyer said.
The flap over Buhannic’s temporary ouster has created a “hotly contested issue where feelings run high,” Laster said, according to the transcript.
The case is Pierre Schroeder v. Philippe Buhannic, No. 12328, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington).