Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

JPMorgan work dispute heads to Appeal Court

In March 2010,  the day before Lewis left JPMorgan Chase, the bank and Lewis reached a deal. Photo / AFP
In March 2010, the day before Lewis left JPMorgan Chase, the bank and Lewis reached a deal. Photo / AFP

A dispute between JPMorgan Chase and its former New Zealand boss - who is seeking $170,000 in damages from the bank - is heading to the Court of Appeal.

Robert Lewis, is locked in "full-blown adversarial litigation" with the bank and alleges he lost an employment opportunity when the corporate giant refused to confirm he was formerly its local chief executive.

The case has not yet had a full hearing at the Employment Court and the parties are still arguing over some preliminary issues.

JPMorgan Chase last year applied to have Lewis' claim against it struck out. The Employment Court's Chief Judge Graeme Colgan declined to do so.

JPMorgan Chase are fighting the decision on the strike out, which is now heading to the Court of Appeal.

Leave was granted for JP Morgan Chase to challenge this in the appellate court by Justice Lynton Stevens, Douglas White and Christine French last week.

In the decision, given by Justice French, the judge indicated they were "mindful of the fact the decision at issue is an interlocutory decision".

"This often raises a concern that an appeal may be premature and that consideration of the merits of the proposed appeal points should await the substantive decision. However, we are satisfied those concerns do not arise in this case. The legal issues will largely turn on a consideration of documentary material and are not dependent on factual findings yet to be made. They can be satisfactorily resolved on appeal now," Justice French said.

See the decision here:


Lewis, who said he was recruited to set up the local branch of JPMorgan Chase, first filed a complaint against the bank with the Employment Relations Authority in September 2010, some six months after he left the firm. Events the year before had led to Lewis raising a personal grievance where he alleged he had been unjustifiably disadvantaged in his employment.

In March 2010 - the day before Lewis left JPMorgan Chase - the bank and Lewis reached a deal, which Lewis claims was an amendment to his employment agreement but which the bank claims settled his grievance and gave the terms of which he would leave his job.

The agreement included that the bank would make an internal announcement thanking Lewis for his service as its local chief executive from August 2008, according to the decision last year from Chief Judge Colgan that covered some preliminary issues in the dispute.

The agreement also included a clause that neither would make "any disparaging comment" about the other to anyone else.

Lewis claimed JPMorgan Chase breached that agreement but in October 2012 the ERA rejected a complaint he made to it.

The following month Lewis - whose LinkedIn profile says he now works at Bank of New Zealand - filed a claim against JPMorgan Chase in the Employment Court. In this action, Lewis wants $170,000 in damages and a declaration his employment contract was breached, says Chief Judge Colgan's decision.

Lewis, according to that judgment, claims that when he applied for a position with Westpac in 2010 he said he was JPMorgan Chase's local chief executive, but when Westpac checked this his former employer allegedly denied it.

Lewis claims that despite a subsequent attempt to have JPMorgan Chase correct its records "he both lost the opportunity for employment and suffered distress" during the next six months before he found work. He is seeking $50,000 in damages for this alleged "distress" as well as $120,000 for lost income.

- NZ Herald

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