case against HSBC has been wrapped up with the courts finding the bank had breached the rights of Johanna Abela – a private clients’ manager – through unjust disciplinary action.
The verdict took too long to come through however, with Abela passing away from cancer in 2013. In light of these circumstances, the courts awarded €603K - the equivalent to NZ$938,935 to her heirs instead, the Times of Malta
Abela had been indefinitely suspended from the bank on 1 March 2004. A letter of charge accusing her of gross misconduct was later issued on 8 April in the same year.
After an internal disciplinary board found her guilty, she was downgraded. An internal appeals board validated this decision, changing the downgrade to a disciplinary transfer and final warning.
On 8 July 2005, Abela filed a writ claiming that defects and irregularities within the hearing breached the common principles of justice.
The application, signed by lawyer Tonio Azzopardi, said among other things that Abela was not allowed to present her own witnesses or cross-examine those testifying against her.
Furthermore, an anonymous document was allegedly used as evidence against her.
Saying that both the disciplinary and appeals boards had failed to act in an impartial, independent manner, she said the investigation breached her rights and were thus null and without effect. She asked the court to support her in these allegations.
HSBC denied these claims.
In the final judgment, Madam Justice Jacqueline Padovani Grima said the bank had failed to convince her that the process taken against Abela was fair and without prejudice.
Although the bank had requested that the disciplinary procedure against Abela be reinitiated instead of having to pay costs, the courts decided that since she was no longer alive this was no longer an option.
The firm was ordered to pay damages included the wages and commission with costs and interests that Abela would have received up until the time her cancer symptoms deemed her too ill to work.
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