The former employees of Dresdner Kleinwort were told they would receive the money if they stayed with firm, which lost billions and faced an exodus of staff in 2008, the High Court heard. Mr Justice Owen said he recognised the claims arose ‘against the background of a major crisis in the international banking industry’ and while bonuses ‘remain a subject of intense public interest’.
But he added: ‘I have come to the conclusion that the claimants are entitled to payment of bonuses provisionally awarded to them.’
Staff at the bank, now owned by Commerzbank AG, were told by the then chief executive Stefan Jentzsch they would be paid from a bonus pool of £320million ‘no matter what’.
But, despite the bankers staying in their posts, the bank ‘moved the goalposts’ in 2009 and introduced a new clause, Andrew Hochhauser QC told the court at an earlier hearing.
Mark Levine, a partner at law firm Mishcon de Reya that represented 21 claimants, welcomed the ruling.
‘Dresdner made repeated promises to employees prior to its sale to Commerzbank in an attempt to avoid a mass exodus of staff – namely that they would be financially rewarded from a guaranteed retention pool for remaining at the bank and performing well,’ he added.
But a Commerzbank spokesman said: ‘The decision to reduce discretionary bonuses in light of €6.5billion of losses at Dresdner Kleinwort for 2008 was responsible and justified.'