The High Court has upheld bonus claims by investment bank employees who were told that they would participate in a guaranteed minimum bonus pool subject only to assessment of individual performance. The information given to the employees amounted to a promise that gave rise to a contractual obligation and was not, as the employer argued, a promise that was binding in honour only. It was sufficiently certain and had been intended to create legally binding obligations.
While its findings with regard to the employees' contractual entitlement resolved the claims, the High Court went on to consider the employer's subsequent inclusion of a clause making payment of provisional bonuses subject to review linked to the investment bank's performance. The High Court found that introduction of this provision had been in breach of the implied term of trust and confidence and that, in any event, the requirements of this clause had not been met. This meant that purported reductions to the employees' provisional bonus awards would have been invalidated. (Attrill and others v Dresdner Kleinwort Ltd and Commerzbank AG  EWHC 1189 (QB).)