Brokers open fire in High Court battle
BGC PARTNERS offered well over £40m to key broking staff at fellow inter-dealer broker Tullett Prebon as part of a “carefully constructed raid”, a court heard yesterday on the opening day of a long-anticipated legal case between the two firms.
Tullett, headed by City veteran Terry Smith, has accused its arch-rival of conspiring to poach at least 55 staff in a bid to destabilise its London business, after BGC hired Tony Verrier, Tullett’s former chief operating officer, in January this year.
In his opening remarks to the court yesterday, Daniel Oudkerk QC, a barrister at 11KBW acting on behalf of Tullett, said BGC had orchestrated the campaign using Tullett’s own desk heads, which he said constituted a “gross breach of contract”.
He added that the company had used forward contracts, sign-on benefits and “a construct of constructive dismissal” to lure the brokers.
Oudkerk claimed that BGC and its president Shaun Lynn offered over £40m in total to the brokers targeted and that it paid almost £2m to the heads of some of Tullett’s desks by way of sign-on payments alone. James Bowditch, head of the short term sterling derivatives desk, is said to have received a “golden handshake” of £1.1m, while James Hall, the head of the forward cable desk, is said to have been given £750,000 up front.
The plaintiffs produced evidence from over 45,000 text messages and phone calls between Lynn, Verrier and the other defendants, which they said were used “to coordinate the poaching operations”. They told the court that the defendants had sought to “cover their tracks” by using phones and BlackBerrys which were then deliberately mislaid or discarded.
A BGC spokeswoman said: “BGC Partners continues to expand geographically, enter new product areas and increase its broker headcount. This means the firm is consistently sought out by some of the marketplace’s most experienced brokers, and continues to attract top talent. As such we fully contest these allegations.”
Barristers for the defendants, including Littleton Chambers’ Andrew Clarke QC, will be presenting their opening statements to court tomorrow. The case continues.