Hell hath no fury like the City star shorn of her pounds 1m pay packet

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Nicola Horlick, the City high-flyer suspended from her pounds 1m a year investment banking job, yesterday embarked on an extraordinary campaign to clear her name of allegations of greed and disloyalty.

Pursued by reporters and vowing: "I will be heard", she confronted her bosses at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell in London before flying to Frankfurt, where she demanded a meeting with the parent bank's management committee.

Mrs Horlick, one of the City's most high-powered pension-fund managers and a mother of five, flew to Germany to deny allegations that she had tried to poach senior colleagues to join a rival bank in London.

The row began on Tuesday with her suspension and escalated yesterday after she resigned to fight what she called "these trumped-up" charges.

Mrs Horlick, whose husband is also a top investment banker, pledged to get reinstated or seek compensation of pounds 1m. She has begun legal action for unfair and wrongful dismissal.

"I believe in the truth and I insist that people listen to me. I will be heard," she said yesterday. Armed with a top-drawer lawyer and one of Britain's most expensive spin doctors, she arrived at Deutsche Bank's headquarters yesterday afternoon where she was granted a two-hour meeting with a senior member of the legal department.

She said afterwards: "They were really interested in what I had to say. It has restored my faith in human beings after everything I have been through. They said "Do you really think it is realistic to be reinstated?' and I said `Yes.'" The bank's representatives had offered to mediate.

Mrs Horlick's suspension follows hard on the heals of the dismissal last year by Morgan Grenfell Asset Management of another fund manager, Peter Young, for unauthorised trading. The affair, which has already cost the bank pounds 400m in compensation, caused a slump in staff morale. Mrs Horlick said yesterday that she was "the most vocal person in saying Peter Young was a wrong' un" and for that reason she was seen by her bosses as "confrontational".

But the bank yesterday insisted that she was suspended for breaches of contract. In a memo to staff at Morgan Grenfell Asset Management, the firm's chief executive, Robert Smith, said she had been suspended for "soliciting senior colleagues to join a competitor".

Mrs Horlick believes the charge stems from being spotted lunching in Mayfair with a friend from a rival bank before Christmas. "There has been a very large misunderstanding. They ... decided to suspend me on the basis of hearsay," she said after arriving in Frankfurt.

Mrs Horlick - known in the City as Superwoman for the way she juggles a high powered job with bringing up five young children - claimed there was no one more loyal to Morgan Grenfell than her. At the height of the Peter Young crisis, she had dashed from meeting to meeting, her newly born baby on her arm, reassuring clients of her willingness to stay and the company's ability to hold it together. One source sympathetic to Mrs Horlick said there had "obviously been an appalling misunderstanding". He claimed it was "others who were threatening to resign, not Nicola".

"They threatened to leave unless Nicola was given a position of sufficient authority to get the show back on the road. This job, as managing director, she was eventually offered but they then turned round and accused her of disloyalty".

Morgan Grenfell described this version of events as "untrue". Morgan Grenfell believes Mrs Horlick was engaged in a folie de grandeur at the time of her suspension, involving head-hunters and others, to strip out up to 20 fund managers and a large proportion of their clients with them.

"It was mad, stupid, unrealistic and disloyal", a Morgan Grenfell source said. "The press don't know the half of it yet".

Friends of Mrs Horlick said that recent events had coincided with a relapse in her daughter's leukaemia, which had involved renewed chemotherapy. One said; "She's been under a lot of pressure, both at work and at home".

Ms Horlick's day began at 8am as she emerged from her home in Kensington, west London to be greeted by reporters. She accused the bank of "trumping up" charges and set off for the City to confront her bosses.

Sweeping into her old offices in Finsbury Circus an hour and a half later, she warned the security guard: "Don't you lay a finger on me," and proceeded to the third floor, where fund management colleagues met her in stunned silence. However, the man she had come to confront, Mr Smith, was not there. She was persuaded to leave the building by the head of personnel, Martyn Drain, but left defiantly, declaring: "Justice will be done, don't you worry."