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A former equity saleswoman at OAO Sberbank's London unit has sued for sexual discrimination, saying colleagues sent messages referring to her as "Ms. Cokehead" and "mad Svetlana", according to documents from her U.K. employment tribunal claim.
Svetlana Lokhova went on leave because of stress in January 2012 and never returned after colleagues on the all-male equity sales desk created a hostile work environment and showed “a demeaning and offensive attitude to women,” she said in the documents.
Lokhova, 32, is suing Sberbank CIB (UK) Ltd. for sexual discrimination, harassment and breaching whistle-blower protection rules. A London tribunal case starting today is scheduled to last for more than five weeks and call on 15 witnesses.
Damages awarded by the tribunal, normally capped at about 70,000 pounds ($106,100), are unlimited in discrimination and whistle-blower claims.
Sberbank is “confident that it has acted appropriately and lawfully and will vigorously defend itself against the allegations made,” bank spokesman Paul Marriott said in a statement. Lokhova’s lawyer Sean Dempsey declined to immediately comment.
Lokhova didn’t disclose she was setting up a new investment business called DECS Capital Investments Ltd. when she rejoined Russia’s largest lender in 2011, the bank said in documents setting out its defense. She resigned from her first spell as a fixed income saleswoman in 2010.
Sberbank argued there isn’t sufficient evidence of unlawful sexual discrimination, and Lokhova was performing badly.
Two days before her arrival, Sberbank’s U.K. head of equity sales David Longmuir sent e-mails to clients saying "awaiting arriving of Ms. Cokehead," and "they’ve hired mad Svetlana do to equity sales," according to her claim.
At one point, colleagues circulated e-mails saying she needed to visit tribal leaders in Nigeria in order to “calm her down,” implying she needed sex to relax, according to her legal documents.
While Longmuir admits he made "misguided and unprofessional comments", it was because he didn’t like her, not because of her gender, the bank said in its documents.
Marriott said Longmuir declined to comment.
The London office was formerly part of Troika Dialog, which was bought by Sberbank in January 2012.