Commerzbank AG v Price-Jones, Court of Appeal [21 November 2003]

Bonus payment in error: Price-Jones was an investment banker at Commerzbank from April 2000 until he was made redundant in November 2001. In addition to his wage, he was entitled to a guaranteed minimum annual bonus of £250,000 for two years.

In June 2000, he was told he would receive a minimum bonus of £265,000 in respect of the performance in 2000. In December 2000, he was paid £250,000, and a further £265,000 in March 2001.

Six months later, Commerzbank requested repayment of £250,000, claiming it had been paid in error, but Price-Jones refused. The bank had intended to award him only £15,000 extra bonus in addition to the £250,000 existing guaranteed bonus for performance in 2000.

Price-Jones brought a High Court action, claiming he was entitled to a further £250,000 as a guaranteed bonus in respect of performance in 2001, which had not been paid. Commerzbank accepted that he was entitled to the payment, but sought to set off against that sum the £250,000 paid to him in error the previous year.

The judge found in favour of Price-Jones and ordered the bank to pay a further £250,000. The bank successfully appealed.

It had made the payment by mistake, and was entitled to restitution. Price-Jones had therefore been unjustly enriched, and had to repay the £250,000, plus £10,000 interest.

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