Ex-UBS Banker Loses Bid to Sue Bank in London Over Firing

(Bloomberg) --

A former UBS Group AG veteran, who was dismissed following an investigation into the disclosure of confidential information to a client in Asia, lost his bid to have his lawsuit against the bank heard in London.

Michel Lee, a senior banker in Hong Kong who worked on many of China’s largest corporate fundraisings, was fired after an internal probe in 2018. UBS alleged that Lee directed a cover-up of the episode, Judge Sarah Goodman said in a ruling on the jurisdiction of the case published Tuesday.

Lee, who’s British, spent all but two of his 25 years at UBS outside of the U.K., Goodman said in her ruling, and should be treated as an expatriate regardless of his nationality. “There is a very strong territorial pull for Hong Kong in this case,” she said.

At the employment tribunal in London, Lee also said he suffered after whistleblowing and from sexual discrimination though full details of the complaint aren’t available.

Lee will appeal the decision. “Given the nature of this case we would have expected UBS to have appealed if the outcome had been reversed,” a spokesman for the banker said. A UBS representative declined to comment.

In his filing at the start of a preliminary hearing, Lee said that he was formally an employee of UBS’s London branch throughout his tenure. The banker was paid above the salary cap for a managing director in Hong Kong and compensated as if he was working in London. He also faced British disciplinary proceedings rather than those in Asia, he said.

Lee’s group at UBS worked on financing many of the largest Chinese conglomerates as they stepped up the pace of acquisitions to a record. UBS was one of four banks to hold collateral for $3 billion of loans to the heavily indebted HNA Group Co. after helping fund the acquisition of Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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