On 9th March 2022 after hearing lengthy submissions and authorities from lawyers on both side spanning over 100 pages, Justice Koroma, Justice of the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone and President of the Industrial Court, delivered a landmark ruling deciding that Standard Chartered Plc, the UK based parent company of Standard Chartered Sierra Leone, are necessary and proper parties in an action brought before his court.
Two senior management employees, Ibrahim Jubairu Bah, Country Head of Global Banking, Head of Global Subsidiaries and Executive Director and Sulaiman Dauda Lumeh, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Information Officer, Head Retail Banking, Head of Compliance, Business Finance Manager, Business Support Services Manager, aggrieved over their dismissal brought an action claiming damages for unfair treatment and conspiracy to ruin their careers and reputations in excess of USD$ 14,000,000.00.
In his ruling, Justice Koroma concluded that based on the evidence before him, Standard Chartered Plc cannot escape liability by reliance on the principle of separate corporate personality.
In his view a duty of care was owed to Messrs.’ Bah and Lumeh by Standard Chartered Plc, the breach of which is an important issue the Court has to look into.
The learned Justice has ordered some amendments to be done to the Court papers by solicitors for Messrs.’ Bah and Lumeh and gave up 29th March for Standard Chartered Plc’s solicitors to file a defence to the actions after the amendments.
Solicitors for Standard Chartered Plc had filed an application in the High Court of Sierra Leone seeking to have it from the proceedings primarily on the grounds that even though Standard Chartered Plc is the parent of Standard Chartered Sierra Leone the two entities are separate and distinct based on the principle of separate corporate personality established in the over 100 years old case of case of Salomon vs. Salomon, therefore no relationship contractual or otherwise existed between Standard Chartered Plc and Messrs. Bah and Lumeh. Standard Chartered Plc is represented by Ransford Johnson esq. of Messrs.’ Lambert & Partners who forcefully argued in support of the application.
Messrs.’ Bah and Lumeh are represented by Osman Jalloh esq. formerly of Yada Williams & Associates, Juella Noldred and Mohamed Jang Jalloh esq. both of Yada Williams & Associates.
Osman Jalloh esq., strongly opposed the application and argued that the case before the court constituted an exception for the court to lift the veil of separate corporate personality upheld in Salomon case noting that the Standard Chartered Group was vertically organized, meaning the parent body exercised a very high degree of control over Standard Chartered Sierra Leone and its other subsidiaries and affiliates around the world. The Learned Lawyer submitted that it issues directives, makes rules and regulations that regulate operations of these subsidiaries and affiliates.
He further argued that it is clearly stated in Standard Chartered Plc’s website that it has over 85000 employees in over 131 countries meaning Messrs.’ Bah and Lumeh are amongst those employees noting further that employees of Standard Plc in other countries took very active part in the decisions to unfairly get rid of his Clients.
He relied heavily on cases decided in the UK, Standard Chartered Plc’s headquarter to reinforce his argument that a duty of care to Messrs.’ Bah and Lumeh was owed by Standard Chartered Plc which he submits had been breached, occasioning damages to them, bringing their professional careers being grinded to a halt which is why his clients are in court.
He concluded that unlike its motto, “Here for Good”, in the case of Messrs.’ Bah and Lumeh, Standard Chartered Plc is “Here to Destroy”.
A very senior corporate lawyer who has been in practice in the country has described Justice Koroma’s ruling as a milestone in the fields of company and employment law in Sierra Leone. This ruling according sends a loud and clear message to all foreign companies carrying on business in Sierra Leone that while Sierra Leone is open for business, you cannot maltreat Sierra Leoneans as happened in the case of London Mining and Timis Mining closures without adequate compensation for the Sierra Leonean workforce and contractors.
He concluded that from now onwards, if a branch of a foreign company carrying on business in Sierra Leone commits wrongful acts against Sierra Leoneans, in appropriate circumstances redress can be sought against such parent foreign company directly.