UK - Merrill Lynch Investment Managers co-chairman Carol Galley accused Unilever's finance director in court this week of attempting to blackmail her into giving compensation in 1998.
In her witness statement, Galley alleged that Unilever’s Hans Eggerstedt asked for compensation for the Unilever Superannuation Fund for underperformance at a meeting in January 1998.
She said that without compensation he threatened to publicly terminate the contract with Mercury Asset Management, which was subsequently taken over by MLIM.
Galley said: “I was told that either we paid compensation to the Unilever Superannuation Fund or Unilever and the USF would take steps to sack us as publicly as possible and to ensure that the damaging publicity associated with losing such an important client would reflect not only on Mercury as a house but also on me personally. “This seemed to be no more than a crude attempt at blackmail.
Galley had earlier been asked if portfolio performance of 1% per annum over the long term was “substantially equivalent” to MAM’s stated objective of top quartile ranking against the WM2000 that applied until the end of 1996. Galley agreed.
But under cross-examination by Unilever’s barrister Jonathan Sumption QC, she later said: “We were not aiming for plus 1% at that time. We were aiming for the upper quartile.”
Galley was also rebuked by Mr Justice Colman. He said to her: “Why do you not just take the questions one by one instead of answering the hidden agenda, or not so hidden agenda?”
By Paul Sanderson
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