RBC makes offer to ex-employees

Dispute over ESOP II plan

By Carla Bridglal

RBC Royal Bank has written former employees who were part of its Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) II plan offering a settlement based on workers’ individual circumstances. 

In correspondence sent to the Express and dated December 10, Amos Herai, head of the bank’s Human Resources, informed the former employees of the offer.

 Many of them are clients of law firm Chancery Chambers. 

Herai said the bank had been in discussions with Chancery Chambers about solutions to address the issues and provide ESOP II members with “reasonable entitlements”. 

“We are pleased to announce today that, on a without prejudice basis, RBC will be offering eligible ESOP II members an individual payment, based on their specific circumstances. RBC will begin a claim process in which individual offers will be made to eligible members.  We believe this is a reasonable solution to this extremely complex issue. In the coming weeks all eligible ESOP II members will be invited to register and submit a claim,” Herai’s letter stated.

In an e-mail yesterday, RBC regional manager, Employee and Corporate Communications Nicole Duke-Westfield said the bank’s next step will be to launch the claims process in early January and to  get eligible members’ individual proposals in their hands for review. 

“Our goal is to distribute payments immediately following acceptance of the offer,” she said.

The discussions concluded December 10 (the day correspondence was issued).

Chancery lawyers Douglas Mendes and Stuart Young were considering filing class action litigation on behalf of their clients, a source close to the discussions told the Express yesterday. 

The bank’s actions follow a High Court judgement in April, where former RBC employee Deborah Braithwaite won her claim that the bank did not uphold the terms and conditions of its ESOP II agreement.

Braithwaite contended that the bank had taken a unilateral decision to fix the ESOP II redemption price at $20, instead of $36, as was the value of the stock when the programme closed in 1998, nor did the bank pay dividends on that investment accrued after it was closed until Braithwaite’s retirement in 2007. 

High Court Judge Judith Jones ruled in Braithwaite’s favour awarding her the difference of the share price’s actual value at the time ($36) and the $20 price that had been set by RBC (then RBTT Bank). She was also awarded the dividend payments. 

“It has been our goal from the outset to ensure we present an appropriate and reasonable solution a complex issue, which is why our review has been thorough since the Braithwaite judgment. We have communicated to members on a regular basis on our progress to resolve this issue. We believe the terms proposed are reasonable,” Duke-Westfield added. 

Mendes and Young were Braithwaite’s attorneys. 

The Express contacted Young yesterday, who said he will be meeting with his clients tomorrow to discuss RBC’s proposal.   

Members who resigned from the bank prior to April 12, 2009 will not be eligible. 

ESOP II members who withdrew for any reason other than resignation from the plan between 1998 and 2008, when RBTT shares were delisted from the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange will receive the difference between $20 and whatever the share price was on the day they left the bank. 

Members who withdrew for any reason other than resignation between 2008 to present will receive the difference between $20 and $36.50, the last trading price of RBTT stock.

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