Banker in sex discrimination case loses her claim for costs

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The Independent Online

A City banker whose attempt to sue her former employer for £7.5m in a sex discrimination case failed was yesterday left facing legal bills of more than £1m after she lost her claim for legal costs.

A City banker whose attempt to sue her former employer for £7.5m in a sex discrimination case failed was yesterday left facing legal bills of more than £1m after she lost her claim for legal costs.

Stephanie Villalba, 43, the head of European private banking at Merrill Lynch, had hoped to get the investment bank to stump up nearly £600,000 towards her legal bill. She was the most senior woman executive to bring a discrimination case against a top financial institution at an employment tribunal.

But yesterday her application for £568,000 in costs from Merrill Lynch was dismissed, leaving her to pay her own legal bills. Ms Villalba's attention will switch to her appeal against the sex discrimination verdict, which will be heard this year.

Although she felt her former employer should foot her costs because several of the bank's senior executives had lied under oath, the tribunal ruled that neither party had acted "unreasonably". It also pointed out that both sides had given "inaccurate evidence" during the 50-day hearing.

Merrill's counterclaim for £150,000 in costs was also turned down.

One employment lawyer estimated that Ms Villalba's legal bill was likely to be more than £1m, adding that Merrill's costs would be "colossal".

A spokeswoman for Ms Villalba said she was "disappointed" by the ruling.

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