Why I deserve every penny of the £800,000, by the bullied City exec

In her first interview since she received massive damages over bullying at Deutsche Bank, Helen Green tells Katy Guest that her fight for justice goes on
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The Independent Online

"I am shattered," said Helen Green yesterday, at her home on the Isle of Dogs in London. She was keeping away from the cameras that have followed her since she won a landmark court case against the financial giant Deutsche Bank on Tuesday. The judge awarded her £800,000 after a bullying campaign by four female colleagues.

The size of the payout shocked many in the City, as do claims she repeated yesterday that bullying is rife there. Ms Green has also been attacked for being part of the nation's "culture of victimhood". But in her first interview since the ruling, the former assistant company secretary insisted that she deserved the money. "The payment was what the judge decided and I respect that," she said.

Ms Green said Deutsche Bank had yet to take responsibility for allowing the bullying to happen. "Instead of acknowledging the problem, the bank added to my anguish by conducting this litigation in an unnecessarily obstructive and hostile manner."

Her lawyer, Tony Morton-Hooper, told The Independent on Sunday yesterday: "She can't work in the City again so she's going to suffer future loss of earnings. The figures were agreed by the bank. They knew this would be the size of the claim. It wasn't as if we pulled a rabbit out of a hat." Ms Green said she wanted to put all that had happened behind her now. "I am just very tired and relieved that this has finally come to an end. I want to be positive."

But she was devastated by a feature in the Daily Mail yesterday, which claimed to reveal her "dark secret". The story described her as having suffered bulimia, depression and a compulsion to self-harm. And it described how in the Nineties she sued her adoptive father for sexually abusing her. The inference was that Ms Green was a serial compensation claimant - an idea she totally rejects. The abuse at the hands of her adoptive father, a wealthy accountant called Edward Green, was referred to in court documents. Ms Green said she told nobody about the abuse until Mr Green contacted her at university, disrupting her studies. Her adoptive mother accused her of assault and said she would report Ms Green to the police. This provoked her into reporting the abuse to the police herself, she said. She did not press criminal charges, but felt her parents had "swept the sexual abuse under the carpet". She brought a civil case against her father, and in 1995 she was awarded £17,000 damages after he admitted the abuse.

Mr Justice Owen said last week Ms Green had shown "remarkable fortitude in overcoming so deeply troubled a childhood and adolescence". He added that, despite all she had been through, it was "highly unlikely" she would have developed major depressive illness but for the bullying she suffered at Deutsche Bank. In court, Ms Green had said the "slow, systematic mental abuse" began on the day she started work at Deutsche Bank in 1997, and continued until she left in 2001, after a nervous breakdown. She claimed colleagues in "the department from hell" would ignore her, blow raspberries at her and complain of a "stink" when she entered a room. Her name was taken off internal memos and work would go missing if she did not lock it away. The court heard that Ms Green was not the perpetrators' first victim: seven other women suffered similar bullying, described as "subtle" and acted out in an environment of "extreme bitchiness".

The bank describes itself as "a European global powerhouse dedicated to excellence, constantly challenging the status quo".

Ms Green said yesterday that she wants to devote time to protecting others like herself from what the High Court called a "deliberate and concerted campaign of bullying".

"In fighting my case I have become more aware of what a big problem bullying is for the City," she said. "My case was not an isolated one. All City businesses will have to do more than pay lip-service to this hidden menace."

Last Monday, the High Court ordered the bank to pay her costs, plus £35,000 for pain and suffering, £25,000 in respect of her disadvantage in the labour market, £128,000 for past loss of earnings and about £640,000 for future loss of earnings, including pension.

What she hopes is that Deutsche Bank "takes responsibility for its share of contributing... to the psychological impact [the bullying] caused". She adds: "I really, really hope they learn and move on from this. I would like them to hold up their hands and say, 'Let's do something about this'."

She has no desire to talk about the people who tormented her to the point that she was given antidepressants, taken to hospital and put on suicide watch. "I don't know where they are now," she said, "there were so many of them. I think a couple are still there, I don't know." She wants to move on, and try to understand why workplace bullying happens, and how to combat it.

"In October, I am going to Birkbeck College to do an MSc and PhD in organisational behaviour," she said, adding that this decision wasmotivated by her experiences at Deutsche Bank."I am going into an academic career so that I can learn about this, look at the issues ... and hopefully find ways of dealing with them."