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Sacked IT manager sues referee for £10m

An IT manager is looking for compensation for what he claims was a damaging reference from his former employer
Written by Andrew Swinton, Contributor

An IT manager who was sacked from a city bank is suing a previous employer over the job reference that caused his departure.

Michael Johnson is suing consultancy firm Perot Systems for £10m in lost salary and pension rights from Deutsche Bank, after discovering that a reference provided by Perot cost him his job at the bank.

Johnson was sacked from Deutsche Bank in 2001 on the grounds of the reference, less than a year after joining as an IT project manager. The reference came to Johnson's notice when his attempt to sue Deutsche Bank for wrongful dismissal failed -- a tribunal found that on the basis of the reference Deutsche Bank had acted properly. He subsequently decided to take action against Perot Systems.

In his High Court claim, Johnson said the reference, written by a former colleague at Perot called Simon Hull, accused him of technical incompetence. The reference said there were allegations of "serious compliance issues" over share dealings carried out by Johnson, and in the reference Hull described working with Johnson as "the most horrendous episode that I have ever experienced in my working life."

The reference from Hull continued: "Mr Johnson had been kicked out of a bank after he left the company" and that "it was something to do with obtaining a mortgage from the bank concerned fraudulently."

Meriel Schindler, head of employment at City law firm, Withers, told ZDNet that if there is a notable misrepresentation then individuals can sue their (former) employer. "There was a previous case that was decided in the House of Lords between Spring and Guardian Royal Insurance," said Schindler, in which an insurance salesman was given a reference that implied he was dishonest. "This was the kiss of death for his career and he then didn't get further jobs. You have no option but to clear your name."

Johnson, represented by Mcgoldricks solicitors, is basing the £10m claim against Perot Systems on ten years' salary at Deutsche Bank and loss of pension rights. Derek Simpson, legal counsel at Perot was unable to comment on the case.

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