A City employee has lost a High Court case after it was found that he laid down a “timetable” for a colleague to quit his job and move to a competitor.
Mr Imam-Sadeque, 41, commenced employment with Bluebay Asset Management, an asset management company, in 2004. Bluebay – which is owned by Royal Bank of Canada – is valued at £963 million. In 2010 Mr Imam-Sadeque had been promoted to “Head of Sales for the UK, Middle East and Australia”. He received a basic salary in this position of £100,000 but was also entitled to an annual discretionary bonus and share options which increased the value of his pay package in 2010 to £2.45 million.
The problems appear to have commenced in 2011 when Mr Imam-Sadeque put plans in place to join a fledgling start-up, Goldbridge Partners Capital (“Goldbridge”). Goldbridge work in the field of asset management and were therefore competitors of Bluebay. Mr Imam-Sadeque’s restrictive covenants in his contract of employment meant that he could be put on gardening leave for 6 months after the termination of his employment. There were therefore plans in place for him to start at Goldbridge in January 2012 and (after complaints about Mr Imam-Sadeque’s behaviour) he was put on gardening leave by Bluebay in August 2011.
Prior to his being placed on gardening leave Mr Imam-Sadeque met with a colleague (and friend) of his at Bluebay, Mr Nixon. The pair were originally supposed to go for coffee but this was changed to lunch and Mr Nixon and Mr Imam-Sadeque met in July 2011 in the City. Mr Nixon later left Bluebay and joined Goldbridge. Bluebay later suspected that Mr Imam-Sadeque had “poached” Mr Nixon and that the lunch had been arranged so that Mr Imam-Sadeque could sound him about the possibility of joining him at Goldbridge. They therefore refused to bay him his bonus and share options for 2011 – which he would have otherwise been entitled to. This amounted to a withholding of approximately £1.7 million of Mr Imam-Sadeque’s salary.
Mr Imam-Sadeque subsequently issued a claim for breach of contract in the High Court in October 2012, claiming that he was contractually entitled to receive his bonus payments. However, Mr Justice Popplewell at the High Court found that Mr Imam-Sadeque had met with Mr Nixon with the purpose of enticing Mr Nixon to join him at Goldbridge. This incident in July 2011 constituted a “serious breach” of his contract of employment and Bluebay – if they had known of the facts at that point – would have been entitled to terminate his contract of employment there and then. He was therefore not entitled to his discretionary bonus and share options. The Court went on to make certain findings about Mr Imam-Sadeque’s character, noting that there were allegations that he was “aggressive, threatening and intimidatory” towards junior employees and giving the impression that he could “make or break” someone’s career. The Judge also noted that Mr Imam-Sadeque’s evidence was “unconvicing”.
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Mr Imam-Sadeque will (in all probability) also be liable for Bluebay’s costs of defending the litigation – which in themselves are likely to be substantial.