Jefferies Must Pay Fired Trader $1.86 Million, Court Says

Jefferies Group LLC was ordered by a Hong Kong judge to pay its former Asia equity trading head Grant Williams about $1.86 million for firing him over a newsletter which referred to a Hitler parody video.

The award includes pay for a six-month notice period and damages covering his loss of salary and bonuses from June 2011 until July 2013, according to a ruling by Deputy High Court Judge Conrad Seagroatt today.

Seagroatt ruled last month that Williams shouldn’t have been blamed for the Dec. 7, 2010 newsletter that included a link to a YouTube Inc. video clip depicting Adolf Hitler, with subtitles that mocked JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon. His firing the next day for unacceptable conduct was “hypersensitive” and “irrational,” Seagroatt said last month.

Williams, 46, had sent it for vetting and its distribution was a result of human error or a defect in the approval system established by Jefferies or a combination of both, according to the June ruling.

Carole Bishop, a Jefferies spokeswoman in London, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail requesting a comment on the case.

Jefferies’s lawyer, Jose Maurellet, argued in court that the newsletter associated the New York-based investment bank with the video that “insulted in a quite humiliating way a competitor and business partner.”

The video uses a scene from the 2004 German movie “Downfall” showing Hitler screaming at his subordinates in the final days of the war. Subtitles suggested Hitler’s character was Dimon, speaking in the context of bets on the price of silver.

Williams, who is now a portfolio manager with Vulpes Investment Management Ltd. in Singapore, sought at least HK$13 million ($1.7 million).

The case is Grant Williams and Jefferies Hong Kong Ltd., HCA320/2011, Hong Kong Court of First Instance.

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