SlackBelly: Trouble at Tradition: Ex-director sues broking firm
The City Snitch: The good, the bad and the ugly of the Square Mile
Sunday 14 February 2010
More legal trouble at French broking firm Tradition, which paid a multi-million-pound sexual harassment and religious discrimination settlement last year to the Fariad sisters, Samira and Hanan.
The Muslim twins, who worked as brokers for Tradition, threatened to make claims that the firm bought drugs and prostitutes to reward clients, and were said to have received up to £10m in damages.
Now I hear that a former Tradition director, of Algerian descent, is taking the firm to court for termination of contract and, separately, to France's race watchdog, Haute Autorité de Lutte contre les Discriminations et pour l'Egalité (Halde). Among other things, he alleges that an employee erected posters around the firm in which the director was portrayed as Osama bin Laden.
Tradition has yet to respond, but the complainant's lawyer, Aurélien Hamelle, confirms my story and adds: "We put our case to Halde last December and had a meeting with the watchdog this week to be informed about the advancement of the investigation."
Tradition, run by Patrick Combes, declined to comment. The latest accounts of Lagardère, the giant French group, discloses it holds a 12.3 per cent stake in Tradition's parent, Viel et Cie. Lagardère has Qatari shareholders.
Now Sandler's a rock for Nathan Kirsh
Nathan "Natie" Kirsh is the veteran South African investor who, you'll recall, was having a run of bad luck. His bid for property group Minerva was snubbed last month, and then Magal Security Systems, where Kirsh is a director, found itself being abandoned by shareholders upset that the group supplied electronic fences for a wall dividing Israelis and Palestinians.
Kirsh also owns a string of companies, many of which are registered in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands and, er, Liberia, countries of such renown in fiscal circles that they've made the OECD's tax-haven "grey list" (one up from the "black list").
I now read in the South African press that Kirsh's deputy chairman is none other than Ron Sandler – the chairman of Northern Rock and Gordon Brown's favourite financial troubleshooter – and sources within the Kirsh empire confirm Sandler's role.
This seems awfully interesting, what with Sandler being no stranger to tax avoidance as a well-publicised non-dom (who works for the taxpayer), so I call the Northern Rock chairman to see if he can explain more.
Sandler, who's an old friend of Kirsh and a trustee of the family trust, says: "There is no formal business relationship. I'm a sounding board. He uses the term 'deputy chairman' on occasions as a term of endearment."
So how does this informal relationship square with PM Gordon Brown's much trumpeted crackdown on tax havens? Downing Street dodges: "Talk to the Treasury." The Treasury adds: "The UKFI will be giving you a call." The UKFI ... well, I'm still waiting.
Hands up, Guy, what awards have you won lately?
In a declaration to the US District Court, designed to prevent his EMI case against Citigroup being heard in the UK, Terra Firma boss Guy Hands pleads: "I have not set foot in the United Kingdom since I left permanently on 1 April 2009, and have no intention of doing so until I have been out of the United Kingdom for at least three years. I have declined numerous invitations to dinners, to speak at conferences [and] to accept industry awards."
Oh, really? What awards, exactly? There are none announced on the Terra Firma website, and an internet search reveals nothing. Hands's mouthpiece waffles feebly: "I am not allowed to provide information that is subject to the litigation." Or as my private-equity mole puts it: "He hasn't won anything for a while."
Little fidelity from Bolton's star pupil
Is there a master-pupil spat going on at Fidelity? Superstar money manager Anthony Bolton is setting up a China-focused product after running Fidelity's Special Situations fund brilliantly from 1979 to 2007. "Special Sits" was then split into two, with Bolton's prodigies Jorma Korhonen and Sanjeev Shah looking after the international and domestic portfolios respectively. Now Korhonen has quietly told trade rag Money Observer that China represents "one of the biggest capital allocation mistakes ever". Crikey. Do the pair get on? "Oh yeah," insists a spokesman. "China is just not an area Jorma likes, but he thinks there are some decent opportunities if you pick the right stocks." Two points: First, Korhonen doesn't fancy many Chinese stocks ... as he has nothing invested there; and, second, maybe he needs to listen more closely to his old mentor. Since Korhonen took over international investments, the fund's lost money.
And it's goodbye from him
More on One Alfred Place, the Fitzrovia private members' club backed by the likes of Pink Floyd's Nick Mason, Genesis bassist Mike Rutherford and former Goldman Sachs partner, Peter Wheeler.
You'll recall that chief executive Rob Shreeve has been moved upstairs by investors, and his replacement, Sharon Brittan, is axing club members whom she suspects are using the club as a serviced office.
So, might the eviction list include my old friend and OAP member Steve Tappin, the headhunter-turned-executive-coach that Boots boss Andy Hornby is considering hiring?
"Absolutely," confirms Brittan. "He's on the list." Ta-ta to Tappin, then.
Alas, poor Toby, Facebook's foiled his fans
While I'm on this subject – an update on Brittan's boy, Toby, and his Facebook page. You'll recall that the 16-year-old had set up a site called, "Can this Onion Ring get more fans than Justin Bieber?" (a reference to some Canadian teenybopper, for anybody born before 1993) and he was doing well enough to have attracted corporate advertising inquiries. But Toby has now discovered that the course of commerce does not always run quite that smoothly. Facebook has pulled the page – without explanation. Spoilsports.
FSA's Clay left behind as Sants dashes for the exit
A quick thought on the resignation last week of Hector Sants, the chief executive of the Financial Services Authority. Was it really as unexpected as the FSA has been briefing (coming as it did, before the general election)? Sure, Sants had always said he would leave later this year (apparently as a promise to his wife), but at least one senior staffer was surprised by the announcement's timing.
Presented with her first chance to shine as senior FSA spinner, after the departure of John Murray in December, Kirsty Clay missed the opportunity. She was away on holiday.
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