Top lawyer Angela Cobbina sues ABN Amro over 'racist remarks' after losing baby


Click to follow
The Independent Online

A top lawyer has claimed she suffered a miscarriage due to the stress of being racially abused at ABN Amro in London.

Angela Cobbina, 41, is seeking £300,000 in compensation from the Dutch lender over claims she was victim of a harassment campaign led by former UK chief executive Paul Schuilwerve who allegedly made fun of her skin colour.

The lawyer said she found out she was pregnant over Christmas in 2012. She claims Mr Schuilwerve bullied her at a meeting on January 30 last year and that night she experienced "severe stomach pain" leading to a miscarriage.

She said: "I will never know for certain whether these two events are related. But I connected them in my mind at the time and still do."

Ms Cobbina said the abuse began on the day she met Mr Schuilwerve, who allegedly looked at a photograph and claimed he "couldn't see her" in September 2012.

She said: "I felt upset, humiliated and belittled … I did not make a complaint about Mr Schuilwerve’s comment at the time because he had been my line manager for less than two weeks and I did not wish to be seen as a troublemaker or deemed sensitive."

In a separate incident, Mr Schuilwerve allegedly said "let's talk about all things black" after a colleague referred to himself as the "black sheep of the family" in a business meeting in June 2013.

"Speaking of that, what about Blackfriars?" Mr Schuilwerve said, according to Ms Cobbina's witness statement in the case. “Let’s talk about all things black. Is Blackfriars the same as Blackadder?"

Over the next 12 months Ms Cobbina says she was the "target" of a campaign of abuse in a bid to force her out of the company. She was fired as head of the bank's UK legal department last September.

In a statement, a spokesman for the bank said: "It is always regrettable when there is a need to undergo a reorganisation with resultant redundancies. Ms Cobbina has made serious and groundless allegations against ABN AMRO and some of its senior managers.

"While we do not welcome the publicity associated with such litigation, we believe an important principle is at stake and that we are required to defend the litigation. ABN AMRO is committed to diversity across its global operations and at every level of the organisation. We are confident that this will be the judgement of the Employment Tribunal and that these claims will be dismissed."

In his witness statement, Mr Schuilwerve said his comment wasn’t discriminatory. He was simply pointing out the "poor quality" of the camera and lighting in the photo.

He said Ms Cobbina missed a crucial meeting and he was concerned about her performance at the company before she was made redundant.

ABN Amro denies the allegations. The case continues.