Feb 2, 2023
BNP Trader Sues for Bonus Held Back After He Quit to Join SocGen
(Bloomberg) -- A former BNP Paribas SA trader sued to claw back a €230,000 ($252,870) bonus he was denied after jumping ship to join French rival Societe Generale SA, claiming his former employer’s policy on deferred pay was “like a punishment for leaving.”
Kais Adsi, who brought the case after quitting BNP in 2021, argues that once a deferred bonus has been allotted, it must be paid out at the due date. Any clause stating that the employee can no longer collect after leaving the bank is unlawful, according to his attorney.
“The aim is to deter leavers,” lawyer Adrien Thomas-Derevoge said on Wednesday during a hearing at the Paris employment tribunal. “This clause harms one’s freedom to go work for another employer.”
The case echoes a flagship Paris lawsuit on deferred bonuses where former Morgan Stanley deal maker Bernard Mourad — who had left to join a client — won more than €1.4 million in 2019 after judges ruled that requiring a worker’s continued presence at a company in order to receive such a payment is unlawful in France. The US bank has appealed.
Read More: Ex-Credit Suisse Bankers Weigh Legal Fights Over Bonus Clawbacks
Cindy Souffrin, a lawyer for BNP, said its pay policy simply seeks to reward the loyalty of employees it wants to keep on board. She called Adsi’s claim “unseemly.”
“He quit, he knew perfectly well the consequences,” she said. “He didn’t stay throughout the vesting period so he can’t claim payment of the deferred portion of his bonus.”
BNP declined to comment further following the hearing.
The final outcome of deferred bonuses lawsuits may have wider implications in France. Many banks consider that a leaver loses the right to deferred bonuses scheduled for payment after their departure — and they are rarely challenged on that point. While fired staffers are quick to sue, quitters are typically less inclined to bring cases.
Read more: Ex-Morgan Stanley Banker Wins $1.6 Million Bonus in Lawsuit
Souffrin suggested that, in any case, Adsi must have been taken care of by SocGen as rival banks normally make up for any lost deferred pay by awarding welcome bonuses. “It’s a well-established practice,” she said.
But according to Thomas-Derevoge, Adsi received no such welcome bonus.
“He was maybe not at the kind of level where one gets that kind of privilege,” the lawyer said.
The ruling is due on April 28.
--With assistance from Alexandre Rajbhandari.
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