BofA Fired Trader on Hypocritical Pretext, Lawyer Says

The Bank of America Corp. manager who fired Sunny Tadjudin “hypocritically” used the pretext she failed to share information, her lawyer said on the last day of a trial over her claim for bonuses of $3.7 million.

John Liptak knew Tadjudin, who worked for the bank’s Asian distressed-debt trading group, would not get a bonus for 2007 when he put her on a performance plan, her lawyer Graham Harris said in the Hong Kong High Court yesterday. The plan was an instrument for termination, not improvement, Harris said.

Liptak, who no longer works for the bank, denied engineering Tadjudin’s firing. She was fired after failing to meet 100 percent of the goals in her improvement plan, Liptak testified. Bank of America denied her claims that she was deprived of bonuses she was entitled to expect for 2005 and 2006 after irrational and arbitrary performance ratings.

Tadjudin is seeking HK$28.3 million ($3.7 million) for bonuses she says she should have received for 2005 to 2007, when she generated three quarters of her group’s profits. Friction developed with Liptak in 2005, when he was appointed as head of the Asia desk and he allegedly transferred a mispriced position to her portfolio, the court was told.

Liptak failed to disclose information he knew about the position to her, Harris said. Tadjudin’s rating was cut when she reported the mispricing, the lawyer said. Liptak and the bank have denied the claims.

Hostility Grows

Liptak’s hostility grew the following year when one of his positions had significant losses and he recommended a ‘does not meet expectations’ rating for Tadjudin, Harris said.

His criticisms that she failed to share information were hypocritical as she wrote more reports than he did, the lawyer said. Liptak’s own evaluations showed he needed to publish more reports, Harris said.

Liptak testified he took those comments as suggestions for improvement and there were other ways to communicate besides writing reports.

Tadjudin’s ratings in 2005 and 2006 were in line with her targets, Adrian Huggins, the bank’s lawyer said. Her claim she was downgraded in retaliation was “purely” speculation as it was on the same day Tadjudin reported concern over the assets transferred to her portfolio.

Tadjudin’s evidence showed unpleasantness toward her former colleagues and “paranoid” allegations of impropriety, Huggins said.

Big Blip

Her attitude is “everybody is ganging up on me, I’m not the one with conduct problems, it’s them,” Huggins said. “It’s just unreal,” he said.

The bank was entitled to rate Liptak higher than Tadjudin and pay him a bigger bonus for 2006 despite him incurring losses, the bank’s lawyer said.

The losses were due to a “big blip” that wasn’t Liptak’s fault, Huggins said. Liptak had different performance goals from Tadjudin, he said.

Huggins also disputed Tadjudin’s computation of her damages claim.

“Her case has been hopeless from the start,” he said. “There’s no basis on which she’s entitled to anything.”

The 50-year-old Chinese Indonesian won a bid to have the case heard at trial in 2010 when an appeals court overturned a dismissal of her claim. A separate claim of sexual discrimination against the bank in another court is delayed until the resolution of this case.

Liptak’s intent to deprive Tadjudin of her bonus can be inferred from the manner in which she was dismissed in bad faith, Tadjudin’s lawyer Harris said.

Bankers’ Vulnerability

Liptak “clearly had no intention to help Sunny improve at any point from 2005, let alone in the performance improvement plan,” Harris said.

The court should address the “unreasonable vulnerability” of bankers, who get the bulk of their pay through discretionary performance bonuses and must remain employed the day the awards are paid, Harris said.

Hong Kong High Court Judge Anthony To will deliver his verdict at a later date.

Mark Tsang, a spokesman in Hong Kong for Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America, declined to comment on the case.

The case is Tadjudin Sunny v. Bank of America, National Association, HCA322/2008 in Hong Kong’s Court of First Instance. The discrimination case is DCEO4/2009 in Hong Kong District Court.

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