Banker who won £3.2m following employment tribunal sues former colleagues for libel

The Telegraph By Agency 11:17AM GMT 26 Jan 2016

Banker who won a £3.2 million payout after suffering a mental breakdown is now suing two of her male former colleagues for libel

Svetlana Lokhova

A banker who won a £3.2 million payout after suffering a mental breakdown is now suing two of her male former colleagues for libel, claiming they waged a vicious ‘campaign’ designed to ruin her professional reputation.

Cambridge graduate, Svetlana Lokhova, who worked for the London branch of Russian bank, Sberbank CIB, won an employment tribunal case over claims of sex discrimination, harrassment, victimisation and unlawful dismissal in March last year.

The tribunal found she had been forced to leave her job after being driven to a breakdown, and that she was unlikely ever to work in the banking sector again.

Svetlana Lokhova had worked for the London branch of Russian bank Sberbank CIB

Svetlana Lokhova had worked for the London branch of Russian bank Sberbank CIB  Photo: Bloomberg

The 34-year-old has now launched a High Court libel case against two of her former co-workers – her direct manager, David Longmuir, and Piotr Tymula – over comments made in emails to other colleagues.

She claims that Mr Longmuir labelled her ‘crazy Miss Cokehead’ and ‘schizo nightmare’ and the hearing of her case against him is pending.

But Mr Tymula’s lawyers are now urging Mr Justice Dingemans to throw out her case against him, insisting he did not use such ‘derogatory remarks’ and that his emails were not damaging to her reputation.

‘They opposed her re-employment by the bank, were openly hostile towards her, and sought to drive her out of her job’
David Sherborne

Ms Lokhova worked in the bank’s equity sales team from June 2011 until April 2012 – which was her second period of employment at the organisation.

Her lawyers told the judge that, both before and during her employment, she was the subject of a ‘sustained campaign’ to wreck her reputation and future career prospects.

They also claimed Mr Longmuir and Mr Tymula were ‘key protagonists’ in this campaign.

Her barrister, David Sherborne, added: “In particular, they opposed her re-employment by the bank, were openly hostile towards her, and sought to drive her out of her job.”

Mr Sherborne argued Ms Lokhova should be entitled to sue Mr Tymula over two emails he sent to three colleagues about her, which he said made ‘baseless and very serious allegations’ regarding her competence at work.

‘The damage to Ms Lokhova’s reputation and the injury to her feelings caused by the emails must be seen in the wider context of the sustained and vicious campaign…’
David Sherborne

“The damage to Ms Lokhova’s reputation and the injury to her feelings caused by the emails must be seen in the wider context of the sustained and vicious campaign by Mr Tymula and other members of the equity sales team to ruin her professional reputation and future career prospects.”

He also said Ms Lokhova had launched her case against Mr Tymula as soon as she became aware of the two emails.

But Justin Rushbrooke QC, for Mr Tymula, said the emails were ‘unremarkable’ in light of the general ‘unhappiness and concern’ that Ms Lokhova’s arrival in the team was causing at the time.

Central London Employment Tribunal

He said Mr Tymula’s contribution towards the discussion could be described as a ‘drop in the ocean’ and there was no evidence he was involved in a defamatory ‘campaign’ against her.

Mr Rushbrooke also said there was ‘not the slightest evidence’ the emails had caused any harm to Ms Lokhova’s reputation – as they were sent to other colleagues who already held her in ‘disesteem’ and whom she held a low opinion of.

He added: “We say, when you look at what was said and when you look at the realistic possibility for it to have caused any damage to Miss Lokhova, in the eyes of those three publishees, and furthermore, when you look at what she thinks of those three publishees, you are in the territory of the absurd to let this litigation continue.”

Mr Justice Dingemans is expected to reserve his decision on whether the case against Mr Tymula can go ahead.

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