Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Guy Hallwright fails to win job back

Guy Hallwright was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm with reckless disregard. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Guy Hallwright was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm with reckless disregard. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Investment analyst Guy Hallwright has failed in his latest bid to win back his job, with the Employment Court satisfied that Forsyth Barr's reputation was damaged after their high-ranking employee drove over a man following an argument.

Sung Jin Kim suffered irreparable damage to his legs when Hallwright's car hit him on Mt Eden Rd in September 2010.

Hallwright was sentenced to 250 hours of community service, ordered to pay $20,000 in reparation and was ultimately sacked from his job as a senior investment analyst with Forsyth Barr, despite the incident occurring away from work.

The investment firm had told him that their senior employees were expected to be people of integrity and moral rectitude with the ability to exercise sound judgement.

"... It seems undeniable that you did not exercise sound judgement on this occasion," Forsyth Barr managing director Neil Paviour-Smith told him.

Hallwright appealed against his dismissal to the Employment Relations Authority but lost, and then challenged that decision to the Employment Court, which released its decision yesterday.

Judge Christina Inglis said there had been an "irretrievable breakdown" in the relationship between Hallwright and Mr Paviour-Smith, generated largely by Hallwright's actions.

This included him secretly recording a conversation between the two men and describing his boss to another employee as "slippery".

Hallwright's lawyers had submitted that it was a private driving matter and that, given he had kept his job for a full two years after the incident until after he was sentenced, it was not open to Forsyth Barr to say there was a breakdown in their relationship.

Hallwright had also contended that "unbalanced" media reporting should not have influenced Forsyth Barr's decision to dismiss him (it denied that it had) and that the company was not "materially" brought into disrepute by the the negative publicity generated by the incident.

Judge Inglis said she struggled to see how Forsyth Barr could be criticised for adopting the course it did.

"... The company took the step of standing behind him while he vigorously defended the criminal charges, wearing the collateral damage to its reputation in the interim, giving him the presumption of innocence, making it clear that it was reserving judgement and allowing the criminal process to run its course before reaching a concluded view or taking any disciplinary action."

She acknowledged it was impossible to quantify reputational damage that Forsyth Barr had suffered, but said it was understandable that the company had formed that view.

"The reality was that Mr Hallwright was in a high profile, trusted senior position within the company and the extensive media coverage had linked his offending with the company brand."

Judge Inglis also declined to award Hallwright a bonus he claimed to have been entitled to, which he had calculated at around $63,000.

Hallwright did not return calls last night. In a recent article in Metro magazine he was quoted as saying he accepted that he did not act well during the incident.

"Absolutely. But at the same time, people do need to be reminded I was being attacked by this guy. I felt under extreme threat."

He went on: "[I] very much regret the effect on my family. It's put them through a hell of a lot of stress, and that was my fault. And Forsyth Barr, too - we argue about who should have done what, and we find ourselves in court on the opposite sides, but I'm sure it's been a very unhappy thing for them to have to deal with as well. And I regret that. Lots of regrets."

Asked what he had to say to Mr Kim, Hallwright told Metro: "Just... I'm sorry about his injuries and I hope he's recovering from them as well as he can. It was an unfortunate day for both of us. He knows that both of us had a hand in it. I wish him well."

Mr Kim did not want to comment last night on Hallwright's employment as that was a personal matter.

He said he would require further surgery on his badly damaged legs.

- APNZ

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