CIBC Loses Age Discrimination Lawsuit

On December 29, 2009 CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) wrote on their website about a 42-year-old banker at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce who won a lawsuit claiming his former employer discriminated against him because of his age when he was fired last year.

German-born Achim Beck, a derivatives salesman earing about $1.5 million a year filed the lawsuit against the CIBC in London, England after he dismissed. The CIBC had closed its battered structured products division amidst the credit crisis at the time. Beck claimed he was treated unfairly due to his nationality and age when he was dismissed in May of 2008.

Various media reports indicated that an internal CIBC memo declared the ideal candidate for a subsequent job posting to head the bank’s European derivatives division should have a “younger, entrepreneurial profile” — a stipulation the bank was unable to justify.

The Globe and Mail in its coverage of the event published further details.
– When Beck appealed his dismissal to the bank, alleging it was commonly known that recruiters had already been asked to look for replacements for himself and his colleagues, the CIBC’s Toronto-based head of fixed income sent an e-mail to a couple of people at CIBC World Markets saying: “Further to our discussion this morning I am not sure why we would negotiate any unfair dismissal … as far as I am aware we restructured the IRD sales marketing desk and have not rehired nor do we have any current plans to do so.”
– One of e-mail recipients replied: “Sorry I missed the beginning … did he forget we are rehiring.” To which the head of fixed income replied: “We have no plans to hire I will call u now.”
– CIBC’s legal department sent Mr. Beck a letter saying his role was genuinely redundant, that the bank would not be hiring equivalent employees in the foreseeable future, and laid out criteria that were used to evaluate the marketing team.

The bank faces a significant payout after a British employment tribunal (the London South Employment Tribunal) decided in favour of Beck. The Tribunal found that the bank dismissed Beck and several members of the derivatives team at the time, yet the CIBC had plans to restaff the unit with younger workers. The Tribunal basted senior executives at CIBC for using a “sham” process. It said in its ruling that the e-mail exchange between management “demonstrates a culture amongst senior management of being willing to cover up the true picture.”

Although the Tribunal found in Beck’s favour on age discrimination grounds, it rejected his claim of race discrimination.

In a statement, the bank said it was reviewing the decision and had no comment. The value of the restitution CIBC may be obliged to pay to Beck was to be determined at a later date.

An internet-based search was unable to determine if the CIBC has made payment to Beck and if so how much was paid to him.

Baldo Minaudo
President, MetroActive Lifestyle Network
Senior Consultant, Venturemind Corporation