Trader says UK firm tried to force him out over mental illness

Some of the former Archer Daniels Midland employee's mental health issues reportedly followed market volatility in 2018.

    Adam Glover Bailie is suing Archer Daniels Midland Co’s United Kingdom brokerage, saying it pushed him aside when he became ill after working excessive hours in his short-handed department [Bloomberg]
    Adam Glover Bailie is suing Archer Daniels Midland Co’s United Kingdom brokerage, saying it pushed him aside when he became ill after working excessive hours in his short-handed department [Bloomberg]

    The head of equities and fixed income at Archer-Daniels-Midland Co.’s U.K. brokerage is suing the company, saying it pushed him aside when he became ill after working excessive hours in his short-handed department.

    Adam Glover Bailie, who had worked for the unit for 22 years, was diagnosed with clinical depression in January 2018. A month later, after working long hours to manage funds of the company and clients during wild swings in the markets, he was prescribed anti-depressants.

    That May, he was given temporary medical leave for work-related stress, and in August last year, the then 46-year-old trader was given permanent leave. He hasn’t worked since. He’s now suing ADM Investor Services International Ltd. and its managing director, Fabian Somerville-Cotton, for disability discrimination, harassment and victimization in a London employment tribunal.

    Employment tribunal cases are often a window into the stressful world of trading, where volatility can roll quickly from market to market, and high salaries can bring pressure to keep profits flowing.

    “The facts of my client’s case are a timely reminder to the financial services industry that urgent steps are needed to safeguard its workforce’s mental health and well-being,” Bailie’s lawyer Shazia Khan said. “It is of enormous disappointment to my client, a highly successful and well-regarded professional and head of equities and fixed income at ADMSI, that he suffered a mental-health breakdown due to his working environment which caused his disability.”

    ADMSI declined to comment on the lawsuit. ADMSI’s lawyer, Thomas Kibling, told the employment tribunal that Bailie didn’t inform executives of his diagnosis until May 2018 and the firm had no knowledge it was work-related until September. Human resources executives were in regular contact with Bailie while he was off, Kibling said.

    Bailie said he made his supervisors aware of the stress he was under but didn’t immediately tell them about his clinical depression diagnosis for fear of losing his job.

    Some of Bailie’s health issues came after market volatility in 2018. On Feb. 6, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index had one of its most volatile days since 2015. The market moves were part of a global sell-off that triggered panic in trading rooms.

    Bailie worked until 11 p.m. the night before, and then drove back to the office at 2 a.m. to “undertake urgent damage limitation work on behalf of clients,” having received no help from the firm’s risk department, he said in his witness statement presented Thursday to the London court.

    In British employment cases, an award is capped at just above 80,000 pounds ($104,000) unless a worker can show discrimination or that they were fired for blowing the whistle on improper actions.

    Bailie says he manually calculated margins for his customers while trying to speak to clients and to close positions in order to limit losses. The work was “both extremely physically and emotionally taxing and draining,” he said.

    His mental health issues began in 2016 due to increased workload as a result of having to fulfill multiple roles. After being promoted to run the department in 2017, he told head of Human Relations Gillian Phillips about the stress on his team and suffered a breakdown, he said.

    Bailie said Phillips was hostile and unsupportive after he was diagnosed as unfit for work following the 2018 sell-off. Somerville-Cotton told his colleagues in an email that Bailie would continue in a senior leadership role but that another employee would take on the role of co-head of the department with overall responsibility of the team.

    Bailie said he heard about the change from colleagues while he was away, and was in direct contrast to assurance he’d received from HR, making him feel undermined, bullied, targeted and harassed, he said. He said Somerville-Cotton was trying to drive him out.

    Bailie continues to suffer from migraines, impaired vision, nausea, insomnia, reduced motivation as well as negative thoughts. He’s often unable to get out of bed, leave the house or make breakfast for himself, he told the tribunal.

    SOURCE: Bloomberg