3VB lead successful defence of Atlas Mara Bank in the DIFC Court of Appeal

The DIFC Court of Appeal (Justice Sir Jeremy Cooke, Justice Wayne Martin and HE Justice Shamlan Al Sawalehi) today published its Judgment in John Vitalo v Atlas Mara Management Services Limited [2019] DIFC CA 012.

The appellant, the former CEO of the respondent bank, sued for breach of contract arising out of the termination of his employment, including for unpaid leave and a failure to index link his living allowance. The claims, if successful, could have led to a considerable penalty under Article 18 of the DIFC Employment Law (approximately USD$5 million). The appeal was dismissed in its entirety.

Justice Sir Jeremy Cooke’s judgment considers the approach to construction of contracts under the DIFC Contract Law, including a term which provided for the respondent to exercise a unilateral contractual discretion whether or not to award an indexation uplift to employees, such as the appellant.

The Judgment is likely to be treated as the leading DIFC Court of Appeal authority on the construction of contracts, and the approach to be adopted when construing terms conferring on one party a contractual discretion.

The Judgment is published on the DIFC Courts’ website [https://www.difccourts.ae/2020/03/23/john-vitalo-v-atlas-mara-management-services-limited-2019-difc-ca-012/].

Farhaz Khan and Nathaniel Bird of 3VB represented Atlas Mara instructed by Beatrice Hamza-Bassey, the bank’s General Counsel, and Kiersten Lucas of Stephenson Harwood.