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Bankers in High Court claim for £42m in bonuses

More than 100 London investment bankers yesterday launched a claim in the High Court for £42m in unpaid bonuses from the German banking giant Commerzbank.

Andrew Hochhauser QC, representing 21 of the 104 bankers, accused Commerzbank of trying to "move the goalposts" when it used a "material adverse change" clause in December 2008 to slash the bonuses by 90 per cent in the wake of the global banking crisis.

Mr Hochhauser told Mr Justice Owen that the bankers had received "binding and enforceable contractual promises" at a town-hall meeting in London in August 2008 that the bonuses would be paid.

"Put briefly, those promises have not been honoured, and that is why we are here today," he said. "Although the defendants accept that the statements which we rely upon were made, they deny that they amounted to contractual obligations."

Nigel Tozzi QC, representing the other 83 bankers, is expected to make opening statements today, followed by Commerzbank's QC Tim Linden, who will mount a "vigorous defence".

Commerzbank has already submitted a "skeletal argument" in which it says most of the bankers earned a basic salary of £100,000 a year. "Their complaint is that they were not paid enough," said the bank.