AMP has settled an employment dispute with its former senior lawyer who claimed she exposed the seriousness of the fees-for-no-services scandal at the troubled wealth giant.
Larissa Baker Cook launched an unfair dismissal claim against AMP with the Fair Work Commission in October last year after she was sacked in June. AMP classified her dismissal as a “summary termination” – used in cases of serious misconduct.
The settlement, announced on Wednesday evening, included a payment and downgrade of the dismissal classification to a “termination with notice” – meaning Ms Baker Cook is no longer accused of misconduct.
Ms Baker Cook alleged she was fired after a confidential mediation failed to address concerns she was exposed to increasingly hostile and intimidating behaviour from colleagues at AMP after she reported the fees-for-no-service issue to upper levels of management.
AMP had pointed to issues with her performance reviews in their reasoning for the dismissal, despite Ms Baker Cook having received two bonuses and a pay rise in three years.
On Thursday, Ms Baker-Cook said she could not discuss the settlement, only to say she was pleased it was over and that she could now focus on her new business, a consulting firm, which she has set up with her husband David Baker.
“This has been going on for 18 months, I’m very glad it’s been settled,” she said.
“Because I wasn’t able to get another job, I’ve started my own law practice,” she told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
The settlement comes four weeks before the matter was scheduled to go to trial in the Federal Court and follows 18 months of negotiations.
AMP criticised Ms Baker-Cook’s professional standards through the process, claiming she had “had poor interpersonal and communication skills, situational awareness and emotional intelligence” in court filings.
In Ms Baker Cook’s statement of claim, she says in November 2016 she became aware the company had been inappropriately charging customers fees and had misrepresented to the regulator that it was an administrative error.
The issue would later become one of the most prominent scandals of the banking royal commission, and resulted in the resignations of chairman Catherine Brenner, chief executive Craig Meller and general counsel Brian Salter.
Ms Baker-Cook has spent millions of dollars fighting the accusations, employing senior counsel Kylie Nomchong SC and solicitor Michael Burns to represent her case.
AMP released a short statement, claiming both parties are “pleased to announce” the settlement.
“While the terms of the settlement are confidential, the parties have agreed that as part of the settlement, Ms Baker Cook’s summary dismissal will be re-characterised as a termination with notice,” the company said.
AMP continues to battle a number of lawsuits, including a class action brought by current and former financial advisers who argue changes to longstanding contracts have left many in debt.
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