£1m bullying payout for Cantor Fitzgerald trader

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The Independent Online

A high-flying City worker has won £1m in compensation from his former employer, the international broking firm Cantor Fitzgerald.

Mr Justice Newman awarded the unusually high level of compensation yesterday to Steven Horkulak, who quit his £400,000-a-year job in June 2000 because Lee Amaitis, the head of the company's UK division, used "the language of criminal intimidators".

Mr Amaitis, 53, allegedly told Mr Horkulak, 39, that he would "break him in two" on one occasion. He had also threatened to "rip his head off", the High Court in London was told.

Cantor, which won the sympathy of the world when 658 of its employees at the World Trade Centre were killed in the terror attacks of 11 September 2001, had argued in court that shouting and swearing were commonplace in the broking world because of its highly pressured nature.

However, Mr Justice Newman said in his judgment: "I reject as fallacious that where very substantial sums of money are paid by an employer, it acquires the right to treat employees according to a different standard of conduct."

The judge was not swayed by Mr Amaitis's repeated claim that he had done little more than speak in a "direct" way to his former senior managing director.

"In my judgment, Mr Amaitis is a dictatorial manager. He issues staccato instructions, raises his voice, shouts, expects instant responses and is quick to criticise," Mr Justice Newman said, as he handed down instructions that Cantor had to pay £912,000 in compensation plus interest to Mr Horkulak. The company must also pay his legal fees of £250,000.

Cantor said it would petition the Court of Appeal for a chance to overturn the judgment. Cantor has been damaged further by repeated allegations that it is commonplace in the broking world for individuals to relax by going to lap-dancing clubs and snorting cocaine. Mr Horkulak had a nervous breakdown after spending three years at Cantor and admitted during the trial that he was addicted to cocaine in 1998 and also had a drinking problem. He sought treatment at The Priory clinic.

Yesterday, he flew into the UK from a family holiday in the Algarve, Portugal, to hear the judgment. He said: "I am delighted that the court has recognised both the culture of bullying and abuse at Cantor, to which I was subjected over a long period." Mr Horkulak now works for Tullett, a rival brokerage.

The case is the latest high-profile courtroom battle for Cantor, which fought its main rival, Icap, last year over allegations that the company had poached three of Cantor's senior staff when it was still on its knees after the 11 September attacks.

Both cases have revealed squalid details about the world of City brokers, including allegations that Mr Amaitis suggested a trip to the "ballet" on a business trip to Tokyo as a euphemism for a visit to a lap-dancing club.

Cantor supported Mr Amaitis, saying: "Lee Amaitis's vision, leadership and drive have been key to the company's achievements, particularly during its recovery over the last two years."

The case is likely to have wide-ranging repercussions for many City firms, where swearing and verbal abuse are commonplace.

Stephan Martin, a partner at the law firm Allen & Overy, said: "Until now, employers would be very wary of sexual or racial abuse. This case shows that anybody can complain if they feel subjected to a hostile working environment."