Former City banker loses appeal against Merrill Lynch

The former City banker who brought a high-profile £7.5m sex discrimination claim against Merrill Lynch has lost her appeal against the tribunal decision to throw her case out.

Stephanie Villalba, who worked for the investment bank’s international private client group, lost her original case in 2004 but began an appeal last month.

She was not permitted to appeal on the sex discrimination claim but was allowed to appeal on the grounds of victimisation and on a technical point on unequal pay.

But the judge presiding over the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) dismissed the appeal on Friday.

In a 50-page response to the appeal, Mr Justice Elias said the employment tribunal, which heard the original case, had reached an exemplary decision.

“The tribunal found that there was no sex discrimination but there was some discrimination by way of victimisation. They gave cogent reasons for so concluding. We do not accept that the tribunal misdirected themselves in law nor did they reach an irrational or unjustified conclusion,” he said.

On the equal pay claim, the judge said Villalba’s appeal “in our view is wholly at odds with the principles of discrimination law. Accordingly this appeal fails.”

In a statement, Merrill Lynch said: “Stephanie Villalba lost her sex discrimination case. She lost her claim for costs. She has now lost her appeal on points of law relating to victimisation and unequal pay. It is time for both of us to move on.”

Villalba said: “The decision of the EAT today is disappointing to me but I do not regret having brought this legal action against Merrill Lynch.

“The result, though not in my favour, does not vindicate the conduct of senior Merrill Lynch executives who were found to be deliberately lying under oath to bolster their defence nor does it exonerate Merrill Lynch’s poor pay and promotion practices found by the tribunal.”

Villalba now faces an estimated £1m legal bill.

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