--Commerzbank appeals ruling on up to EUR52 million in bonus payments to former staff
--Application was filed Wednesday with UK Court of Appeal
--Bank says no binding commitment was made, reduction was reasonable in light of loss
(Adds detail, background from 5th paragraph)
By Ulrike Dauer
Germany's Commerzbank AG (CBK.XE) Wednesday said it is appealing a ruling by a U.K. court that would require it to pay up to 52 million euros ($66 million) in bonuses to 104 former Dresdner Kleinwort employees.
"Commerzbank has today applied directly to the UK Court of Appeal to seek to overturn the recent Dresdner Kleinwort bonus ruling," a bank spokeswoman said.
The bank said it strongly disagrees with the decision of the U.K. High Court at first instance.
At the end of May, U.K. High Court judge Justice Owen denied Commerzbank an attempt to appeal a ruling he made earlier in May that said the German bank had broken a contractual agreement with 104 former Dresdner Kleinwort employees over unpaid bonuses.
Owen also ruled that the bankers should receive a preferential rate of interest on their unpaid bonuses from the date they should have been awarded in 2009.
Following that ruling, Commerzbank had 21 days to apply to the Court of Appeal, should it wish to challenge the High Court judge's ruling.
The legal dispute is about unpaid guaranteed bonuses that the former Dresdner Kleinwort bankers claim had been promised to them shortly before the investment bank was bought by Commerzbank in 2008.
The 104 bankers--formed of two separate groups--had claimed for up to EUR52 million between them, with individual claims ranging from EUR15,000 ($19,000) to EUR2 million ($2.5 million).
"It is the Bank's contention that as a matter of law, no binding contractual commitment was made, that bonus amounts communicated were provisional and that it was reasonable and responsible to reduce the bonuses in the light of the EUR6.5 billion loss that Dresdner's investment banking operation posted for 2008," the Commerzbank spokeswoman said.
It should be noted that the recent decision from the UK High Court and the bank's application to appeal relate only to the UK claimants, she said.
"In October 2011, the highest court in Germany, the Bundesarbeitsgericht, ratified Commerzbank's position on the same case for employees whose contracts fell under German employment law in the last instance," the spokeswoman added.
Commerzbank is still 25%-owned by the German government, as it required billions of state aid due to the ill-timed acquisition of Dresdner Bank at the height of the banking crisis.
Write to Ulrike Dauer at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
June 20, 2012 09:40 ET (13:40 GMT)
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