An oil trader accused of being an alcoholic and sacked for missing meetings picked up a bottle of wine and deliberately smashed it at a business dinner, the High Court heard today.
Andrew Kearns, who is suing for wrongful dismissal, was employed by Glencore UK from January 2009 until October 2010 and earned six-figure bonuses as well as his £140,000-a-year salary.
But the 38-year-old, from Rainham in Kent, was fired on the spot for serious misconduct after he failed to turn up for work on a business trip to Singapore.
The firm, which is contesting the action, says he missed critical appointments in the morning, at lunchtime and in the afternoon on October 11 - without an explanation - and that it was the latest in a string of similar alcohol-related incidents.
He is also said to have been late or absent from work on at least 64 separate occasions in less than two years.
Today the court heard from Yannick Fedele, then head of the London fuel oil desk and now the firm’s worldwide head of fuel oil, about an incident at a global meeting in February 2009 when Mr Kearns dropped a bottle of wine after being asked by another senior member of staff to pour a glass.
In a statement, he said: “The claimant reacted very strangely. He held out a bottle and then dropped it on the floor as if to say ‘well if you want some wine just take it or get it yourself’. That was certainly my impression, it was not an accident...I remember feeling quite shocked and embarrassed and I think others were too.
“It was quite an intimate meeting and the claimant had been invited to meet new colleagues and his new boss for the first time so I viewed it as disrespectful.”
He also revealed Mr Kearns would “fight and was very aggressive” with colleagues in Singapore and said he became concerned soon after he started that his behaviour was the result of a drinking problem.
“I felt this was causing him to be late at work and to become very aggressive with people if they disagreed with him,” he added. “To me it was clear when the claimant was hung over because he always had red eyes and trembled a lot.”
Mr Fedele also referred to a conversation in which he says Mr Kearns admitted drinking a lot on his own while his family were sleeping and so much to the point he could not remember anything the next day.
He said the events in Singapore that ultimately triggered Mr Kearns’ dismissal were the “last straw”.
Mr Kearns agrees he stayed out until 4.30am with colleagues he had been asked to take out for drinks on the date in question but claims he did not know about any business meetings later that day which required his compulsory attendance.
His counsel Ahmed Miah has branded the dismissal a “mockery” and the claimant said in evidence yesterday that anything was allowed provided traders were making money. He also accused Glencore of trying to make him look like a “wanton alcoholic” when he was working hard to entertain clients.
The trial continues.