Glencore claims long, boozy City lunches are no more
Jim Armitage is the City editor of The Independent and London Evening Standard group of newspapers. He has been a reporter and editor for more than 20 years and was recently shortlisted for the Press Gazette financial journalist of the year and The Society of Editors financial journalist of the year awards. He contributes news, investigative reports and comment to the Independent titles plus a daily column in the Evening Standard.
Thursday 21 November 2013
It's a tradition that has thrived in London's financial districts since Hogarth wielded his brush: the four-bottle business lunch.
But, in the High Court, the world's biggest commodities trader attempted to consign it to history.
Glencore is being sued by a trader, Andrew Kearns, for wrongful dismissal, but the FTSE 100 company claims he was sacked for his serious alcohol-related misconduct.
Summing up in court, Jonathan Cohen, QC for the company, declared: "The days of the long liquid lunch in the City of London are gone. It might be Mr Kearns' way of working… but it is not the Glencore way."
However, Mr Kearns, 37, disputes that his drinking was a reason to sack him, saying meetings that he missed – cited by Glencore as evidence of his gross misconduct – were not "business critical" and that his ousting was influenced by the personal animosity towards him of his boss, Yannick Fedele.
In his summing up, Mr Kearns's QC, Ahmed Miah, accused Glencore of "way overegging the pudding" about the severity of the incidents and claimed the missed meetings were not obligatory, or that he had good reasons to miss them.
In one such missed meeting which Glencore contends was "business critical", Mr Kearns alleged he had received a vague invitation to a meeting with a client, Bakri, to a discussion about a type of product he did not trade in. According to Mr Kearns, Mr Fedele himself did not attend the meeting despite being responsible for that area of trading.
Mr Kearns's QC said drinking with clients is a critical part of an oil trader's job, as socialising is one of the key ways contacts are made.
Asked if he agreed, Glencore's head of oil, Alex Beard, told the court: "It is a fundamentally important part of the oil business to exchange information, socialise and network. But it isn't the main function of the job, which is to buy and sell oil and make money."
The judge has reserved judgment until next week.
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