A CITY trader who lost her bank nearly £4 million when she went home early because of stress wept yesterday as she gave evidence against her former employers.
Helen McNallen, 36, was comforted by her estranged husband after being overcome in the High Court as she pursued her claim against Commerzbank Allan Gore.
She blamed the psychological damages caused by her job for the breakdown of her marriage.
Miss McNallen was suspended in January 2000, the day after she left work at 2pm. Her decision resulted in heavy losses, because the futures market on the Italian Stock Exchange, in which she was trading, collapsed.
She was subsequently reinstated by Commerzbank Allan Gore and is now on sick leave.
Miss McNallen, who said she was driven to the brink of suicide, is seeking £1 million damages for loss of earnings and for the pain and suffering she endured while working for the bank.
She told Mr Justice Cresswell that she joined Commerzbank in August 1988, having previously worked for Goldman Sachs, where she was considered a “big hitter”.
She changed jobs out of loyalty to Philip Wale, her boss, who had made the same move. “I am not very money-orientated,” said Miss McNallen, whose overall package was worth £200,000 a year. “A lot were happy just to go in and get their money,” she added. “I remember one guy on the floor who stood up and said he didn’t care as long as he got his money. Fine – but it’s not my attitude.”
Her job at the bank, which entailed covering five European markets, entailed getting up at 4.50am to arrive in time for a 7am meeting. She got home between 8pm and 10pm.
“I know several traders in the City and none of them have that responsibility. It was ridiculous, it was too much,” she said.
Miss McNallen, of Petersfield, Hants, told the court that she told Mr Wale she was on the verge of a breakdown in February 1999. She was admitted to Cardinal psychiatric clinic in Windsor.
She returned to work the following month, explaining her absence as being a result of a viral infection rather than admitting to depression.
“I was doing my best to do my best. Phil Wale did know. What could my colleagues do? It was up to my boss to delegate.”
Miss McNallen said she tried to prevent illness affecting her performance. “I am punished for being loyal.”
The events that let to her suspension took place on the first day back at work after the Millennium celebrations. By then, she was already owed 18 days’ holiday.
Before leaving work she had “taken a punt” which, but for the unexpected turn in the market, could have proved lucrative for the bank.
Despite the market’s collapse after she had left, nobody rang her on her mobile phone and only one message was left on the answering machined at her London home.
The bank is contesting Miss McNallen’s claim for £1 million damaged. Mr Wale, is global head of cash trading, disputes that she told him she was on the verge of a breakdown.
Martyn Barklem for Commerzbank, challenged her claims saying: “Stress goes with the territory.”
The case continues.
“The Daily Telegraph” 28 April 2004