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‘Standard Chartered PLC has a case to answer’

-Plaintiff lawyer submits

August 6, 2021

 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma 

Plaintiff lawyer in the ongoing human right matter between Standard Chartered Bank Sierra Leone Limited and two aggrieved former staff, who were wrongfully dismissed, had on Wednesday advanced reasons as to why Standard Chartered PLC should be made a party to the matter. 

Lawyer Osman Jalloh representing the plaintiffs had filed a notice of motion in the High Court against Standard Chartered Bank Sierra Leone Limited and by extension Standard Chartered Bank PLC as the parent body, for the alleged wrongful dismissal of his clients.

Earlier, Lawyer R, Johnson representing Standard Chartered Bank in the matter had filed an affidavit in opposition for the court to strike out Standard Chartered plc in the concurrent notice of motion filed by the plaintiffs’ lawyer, on the grounds that the aggrieved complainants were employed by the first defendant (Standard Chartered Bank Sierra Leone Limited) and not by the 2nd defendant (Standard Chartered PLC), hence the latter should not be made a party to the matter. 

In his submission on Wednesday August 4, Lawyer Osman submitted that, they were opposed to the application filed by the defendant applicant and that they relied on the entirety of their affidavit. 

He noted that counsel on the other side had argued that the 2nd defendant does not have an employment contract nexus with the plaintiff, thus it was unnecessary for it to be made a party to the matter.

He submitted that what has happened in so far with the description of the 2nd defendant was of no issue or question of identify, rather it was a mere misnomer, which does not invite the court to uphold the defence’s position that does not constitute a  strong basis for the action to be dismissed against the 2nd defendant. 

He noted that they have sufficiently provided before the court, materials to inform that the person intended to be sued as 2nd defendant is Standard Chartered PLC, which is the ultimate parent company of the first defendant, Standard Chartered Bank Sierra Leone Limited.

He referred the court to exhibit B of the concurrent notice of motion, particularly paragraph four of the motion.

Lawyer Osman submitted that with the information on paragraph four of the concurrent notice of motion, they have no doubt about who they intended to sue.

He noted that the said paragraph sufficiently described who the 2nd defendant is, hence invited the court to overrule that grounds of objection submitted by the counsel on the other side. 

To further support his argument, he referred the court to paragraph 22 and 23 of the affidavit in opposition sworn to by the respondent in the matter, stating that the court will note from those paragraphs that, in clear terms, the plaintiff had gone not just to inform the court who they intended to sue, but had further explained that in respect to the word ‘group,’ coupled with the address of the 2nd defendant on the face of the Writ of summon.

He referred the court to exhibit-E attached to the affidavit of the other side in opposition to the motion, stating that in paragraph 17 under the rubric of confidentiality, the court will note that when the other side was describing the 2nd defendant they described it as Standard Chartered PLC.

He also referred the court to exhibit-S attached to the affidavit in opposition, stating that exhibit-S was the annual report of the 1st defendant (Standard Chartered Bank Sierra Leone Limited), regarding the financial year 2019, and in page 80 of the said report, when they were describing their shareholding structure; they quoted Standard Chartered PLC.

He said the above informed that even the other side was not sure of how to call themselves or their parent body, nothing that when the court looks at the entirety of the matter, it was clear that they intended to sue the grand parent of the 1st defendant. 

In support of his submission, he referred the court to Order 18, Rule 6(2), Paragraph B, sub paragraph two of the High Court Rules.

He submitted that having regards to exhibit-B in support of the motion and Order 28 Rule 6(2), Paragraph B, sub paragraph two, there were issues, questions, reliefs, and remedies sought by the plaintiffs, which did not just relate to the first defendant, but should be determined between the 1st and 2nd Defendants and the plaintiff. 

He said the way and manner the 2nd defendant is organised is so vertical that any line of separate cooperate personality becomes redundant.

Lawyer Jalloh referred the court specifically to paragraph 16 of the affidavit in opposition and submitted that the organisational structure and alignment of the 2nd defendant is such that decisions are taken from a top bottom basis, to the effect that the ultimate parent designs, implements, controls and supervises the operations of the entire Standard Chartered Bank Group.

He said Standard Chartered Bank Sierra Leone Limited is just one small shop of the group. 

He submitted that to determine matters of such nature could effectively not just be against the subsidiary, but also against the parent of the subsidiary.

He argued that the parent exercises supervisory powers, controls and manages the subsidiary and that such control, supervision or management take a form of the parent issuing guidelines and standards to be applied by the subsidiary.

He submitted that the parent participates in the implementation of the guidelines and standards issued to the subsidiary by effecting trainings or monitoring the implementation, adding that by the parent participating in the enforcement makes it a party to the matter. 

He said Standard Chartered PLC participates in the management and operations of the first defendant, Standard Chartered Bank Sierra Leone Limited/.

He referred the court to other exhibits issued by Standard Chartered PLC, through its vertical organisation in regards the entire institution, stating among the standards, exhibit-F, E and G are the basis of the dismissal of the plaintiffs.

Lawyer Osman Jalloh recalled that the other side had contended more particularly in their affidavit in reply that those standards are localised by the 1st defendant in the matter.

He noted that the incontrovertible evidence before the court informs that those are not localised documents, but in terms of geographical consideration, have global application.

To further show the court that the 2nd defendant is necessary and proper to be before the court, he refereed the court to exhibit-B attached to the affidavit in opposition, stating that exhibit-B is a letter dated 23rd November, 2020, addressed to the plaintiffs and the subject reference was ‘notification of disciplinary meeting.’

He noted that page 3 of the said letter was signed by one Edward Ensah, Head of Employee Relations for West Africa, for and on behalf of Standard Chartered Bank Sierra Leone Limited. 

He said  Edward Ensah works in Ghana but signed for Standard Chartered Bank Sierra Leone Limited, to tell someone who works for Standard Chartered Bank Sierra Leone Limited that, they were inviting him to a disciplinary meeting.

He stated that, attached to the affidavit in opposition was the job description of the plaintiffs which was titled ‘Global job description template of Standard Chartered Bank,’ adding that it was stated in page 1 that the plaintiff should report directly to Cluster Chief Operating Office, West Africa.

He also referred the court to exhibit-L in the affidavit in opposition, which was an email correspondent dated 21st of March, 2021, from one Mirna Al Najai, Head of Employee Relations, Africa and Middle East, Standard Chartered Bank.

He said the said email was concerning an appeal the complainant sought regarding the decision of the bank.

He said the mail manifested that Sierra Leone is a small shop of Standard Chartered Bank and that decisions taken go through the structure,  noting that in the circumstances the right and most proper party to be before the court is the ultimate parent. 

He said the complaints were not dismissed by the 1st defendant who only served as a channel to communicate to the complainants about their dismissal by the ultimate parent. 

He referred the court to exhibit-M attached to the affidavit in opposition, stating that exhibit-M is a letter dated 11th March, 2021, from the 1st defendant to the plaintiff informing him about the outcome of his appeal and dismissal.

He submitted regards exhibit-M and invited the court to know that when Mirna Al Najai was being described by Mariama Kamara, the Head of the Human Resource of the first defendant, she was not saying their head or employee relations, hence when they  wanted to sue any Standard Chartered Bank subsidiary, they go for the ultimate parent. 

He also referred the court to exhibit-K 1 to 46, email correspondences regarding transactions that coordinated the dismissal of the plaintiff and proceedings before the court.

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