Goldman Sachs sued over 'sex discrimination'

Jane Croft

A senior banker will next week begin an employment case against Goldman Sachs after alleging she was cheated out of millions of pounds of bonuses and subjected to sexist comments.

Sonia Pereiro-Mendez, an executive director in distressed investing, is suing Goldman for maternity and sex discrimination claiming that she was discriminated against after telling her managers she was pregnant. Goldman denies her claims.

Barring a last minute legal settlement, she is due to start giving evidence against the investment bank next Tuesday in what could be one of the most closely watched employment cases brought by a female City worker in recent years.

A case management hearing on Friday was told that Ms Pereiro-Mendez, a mother of two, had secretly taped conversations with some of her Goldman managers and extracts would be played during the three weeks of hearings.

The banker attended the Friday hearing with her legal team as her youngest baby was cared for in an adjoining room. The hearing heard that she would need occasional breaks during the hearings in order to breastfeed.

Goldman Sachs plans to call 15 witnesses in support of its case, the hearing was told.

As well as Goldman Sachs International, Ms Pereiro-Mendez is suing Nicholas Pappas, a former European head of distressed trading at Goldman; Simon Morris, Goldman's global head of credit trading; and Bryan Mix, global head of loan trading. Goldman and the three men all deny the allegations.

Ms Pereiro-Mendez, who is still employed by the bank, alleged in her claim that over the past five years her bonuses and salary had been cut because her bosses felt that "given her pregnancy she was no longer a significant long-term player".

In the first quarter, Goldman earned $961m advising on deals and another $944m from debt and equity offerings. While bulge bracket rivals have shrunk or seen star bankers leave for boutiques, Goldman continues to thrive.

She claims she was "publicly mocked" and subjected to "gratuitous and implicitly derogatory references to her childcare arrangements" but says she went to great lengths to drum up business for the bank.

Her claim submitted to the Central London Employment Tribunal states: "The claimant took exceptional measures in order to perform the tasks requested for her by Goldman Sachs during her maternity leave.

"Including, for example, arranging for her in-laws to look after her baby in a car park during a relevant meeting so that she could swiftly breastfeed her baby during breaks from the meeting."

She joined Goldman in 2003 but claims that her treatment first began to deteriorate in 2010 when her then manager began excluding her from key meetings.

In October 2011 she told her bosses she was pregnant with her first child but alleges this led to her being sidelined. Her basic salary was set at £250,000 in January 2010 but by January 2012 — three months after her pregnancy was made public — it was cut to £192,000, she alleges.

In January 2011, she received a bonus of £200,000 on top of her £250,000 salary but says she should have been paid £910,000 more because an employee in her position would normally receive a bonus equivalent to 5 per cent of the profit they bring in to the bank.

In January 2012 she was allegedly told she would not receive any bonus, a decision she claims was "discriminatory on the grounds of sex or pregnancy".

In 2013 she was paid £284,000 but alleges she should have received another £475,000. Ms Pereiro-Mendez alleges she was told in January 2014 that she would not receive a bonus but should have received £450,000 based on the 5 per cent principle.

The bank has claimed in court papers that Ms Pereiro-Mendez did not merit the bonuses she is seeking because her performance in 2010 was ranked in the lowest 25 per cent of employees and the lowest 10 per cent in 2011 and 2013.

Employment tribunal hearings brought by female City workers against investment banks are still relatively rare as disputes are often settled confidentially before the cases are aired at public trial.

Jin Lee | Bloomberg | Getty Images