A Cambridge-based businessman has been awarded £3.4 million by the Employment Tribunal after it was found that he had been dismissed because he had blown the whistle on illicit practices.
Medical Marketing International (“MMI”) was set up in 1988 by Margaret Best. Mr David Best (Mrs Best’s husband), 63, was chairman and managing director of Medical Marketing International, based in Cambridge, until he was dismissed for gross misconduct five years ago. After being dismissed Mr Best consulted employment law solicitors and submitted an Employment Tribunal claim for automatic unfair dismissal, among other things.
After five years the matter came to a full Employment Tribunal hearing this year. The Employment Tribunal heard evidence from Mr Best that MMI had developed a vaccine against prostate cancer and had also developed a new AIDS drug but that the good results from the trials of the prostate cancer drug were deliberately withheld from him in order to artificially depress the share price of the business. Mr Best contended that he had submitted a number of complaints disclosing that he believed that such fraudulent and criminal activity had occurred but that the company had ignored him and had instead sought to find a reason to engineer his removal from the company. He was then accused of an – unspecified – act of gross misconduct and dismissed for this reason. MMI, defending the claim, contended that Mr Best had not made protected disclosures and that if they had then the disclosures were not the principal reason for his dismissal. However, the Respondent did not attend the hearing and submitted instead only written submissions.
The Employment Tribunal found in Mr Best’s favour in relation to his claims. Employment Judge Ord stated: “The sole reason for the claimant’s dismissal was his actions in seeking to expose what he, in good faith, believed to be fraud and unlawful activities by his fellow directors and others. The response of the company throughout was to ignore or deny any problem, ignore the claimant’s complaints and instead seek to find a reason to remove the claimant from the company.”
Chris Hadrill, an employment law solicitor at Redmans, commented: “Mr Best’s victory demonstrates that in some circumstances – although rare – companies do seek to engineer the removal of employees and executives from their roles. However, Mr Best’s victory may be Pyrrhic, in the sense that it is not clear at the moment whether he will be able to retrieve all, or any, of the monies awarded to him by the Employment Tribunal.”
Mr Best was apparently awarded £3.4 million as a remedy by the Employment Tribunal. Whether he will be able to recover any of these monies from the Respondent is a moot point, considering that the company went into liquidation in 2010.