Road rage banker blames media

IAN STEWARD
Last updated 05:00 20/12/2012
guy hallwright
GRAHAME COX/ Fairfax NZ
FIGHTING DISMISSAL: Guy Hallwright.

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Road rage banker Guy Hallwright has argued he should not be held accountable for the "sensationalist" media coverage of the criminal conviction that cost him his $485,000-a-year job.

Hallwright, a former investment analyst for Forsyth Barr, was summarily dismissed for bringing the company into disrepute following his conviction for causing grievous bodily harm with reckless disregard.

He unintentionally ran over a man he had had a traffic dispute with and broke both his legs.

Hallwright appeared in front of the Employment Relations Authority yesterday arguing for reinstatement to his position saying he may have been personally brought into disrepute but his employer was not.

His lawyer Kathryn Beck said the media reports of Hallwright's case were inaccurate and sensationalist.

"If it brought out the nutters, as [Forsyth Barr managing director] Mr Paviour-Smith put it, that's not Mr Hallwright's fault.

"It's the nature of the media reporting for which he can't be held responsible."

Beck pointed to Judge Raoul Neave's comments criticising the media coverage of the trial as "prurient" but Forsyth Barr counsel Peter Churchman countered that it "missed the point".

"If he had not engaged in the activity...there would have been no trial, no conviction and no publicity."

Churchman said Hallwright's key tasks included "representing the company as required" and "developing sound relationships with clients", both of which had been imperilled by the conviction.

Hallwright was also supposed to engage with the media but he had "burnt his bridges" in that respect.

Hallwright, who was earning $275,000 a year, is also seeking reimbursement of lost wages, arguing he should receive payment for his lost bonuses. He said he received bonuses of between $152,000 and $300,000 per year, paid six-monthly. His average bonus was $210,000.

In August, Hallwright was sentenced to 250 hours community work, disqualified from driving for 18 months and ordered to pay victim Sung Jin Kim $20,000 reparation after a jury found he unintentionally ran Kim down with his car in September 2010.

The sentence provoked outrage at its perceived leniency and Hallwright was reported to have left his job soon after.

At an Employment Relations Authority hearing in Auckland on Tuesday, it was revealed that Hallwright did not leave of his own accord but was handed an envelope at his desk by the company's chief operating officer which informed him he had been dismissed.

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Yesterday, Beck said her client had worked for Forsyth Barr, without issue, from when the incident took place through to his conviction two years later.

He told his employers about the case and suggested ways he could mitigate the effect on the company, by staying out of the public eye and perhaps removing his name from analysis documents.

Forsyth Barr based the dismissal on Hallwright bringing the company's name into disrepute and him not being able to continue performing his job.

Executive director Shane Edmond told the ERA hearing there were no problems with Hallwright's work.

"The work, no. The name on the document, yes."

Beck said her client had been brought into disrepute but there was no evidence Forsyth Barr had been brought into disrepute.

She said while there was negative media comment about the incident, the business media continued to use Hallwright for comment with his business credibility unquestioned.

Yesterday, Forsyth Barr managing director Neil Paviour-Smith described the circumstances that led to Hallwright's dismissal.

Paviour-Smith said the letter should not have come as a surprise to Hallwright given he had been through a disciplinary process after his conviction.

He said Hallwright's conviction had hurt Forsyth Barr's reputation, based on evidence from staff and clients, and believed both his and the company's credibility with the media and the public had been undermined.

''Everything that we did points to a carefully considered process. I think we were very fair and reasonable to Guy right through the whole two year period... I didn't form any predisposed views as to where this would all end up.''

Kim, the victim in the incident, suffered two broken legs and has had multiple operations since the 2010 incident.

The Solicitor-General decided not to appeal Hallwright's sentence but said it was "undoubtedly lenient".

ERA member Rosemay Monaghan reserved her decision.

- Auckland Now

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