The former New Zealand boss of JPMorgan Chase is locked in "full-blown adversarial litigation" with the bank where he is seeking $170,000 in damages and alleging he lost an employment opportunity when the corporate giant refused to confirm he was formerly its local chief executive.
Lawyers for both sides appeared briefly yesterday in the Court of Appeal, where the investment bank is trying to challenge an earlier decision from the Employment Court.
Robert 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 a decision last year from Chief Judge Graeme 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.
In July last year, JPMorgan Chase applied to have Lewis' claim against it struck out. Chief Judge Colgan declined to do so. In his judgment, Colgan said a "relatively simple case" in the ERA "has blossomed into full-blown adversarial litigation".
JPMorgan Chase are fighting the decision on the strike out and yesterday applied for leave to challenge it at the Court of Appeal.
Lewis' lawyers opposed this bid and Justices Lynton Stevens, Douglas White and Christine French reserved their decision on the application.