By Mathew Carr (CarrZee)
Feb. 4-9, 2022 (LONDON):
I was hoping not to ask this favor — I’m raising funds to pay legal costs after an application to a court by my previous employer.
Bloomberg LP, one of the world’s richest media groups, is asking the UK Employment Tribunal to make me pay 40,000 British pounds ($54,000) for its legal costs.
I was fired by Bloomberg News in May 2020 and we’ve since been in a really very unpleasant unfair-dismissal legal dispute.
There have been tears (and not all of them have been mine). Certainly, there’s been a lot of stress …and it continues.
I argued I was let go because I was whistleblowing about Bloomberg’s inadequate news coverage of the climate crisis and the already-available solutions, a dismissal that would be automatically unfair under U.K. whistleblowing law.
I’ve previously outlined just some of the many suggested areas for improvement, such as better coverage of UN climate talks and the importance of making polluters pay to accelerate the climate transition (which seems in reverse right now).
The whistleblowing law, the Public Interest Disclosure Act, is designed to protect those who speak out against wrongdoing within companies and governments.
Bloomberg, owned almost 90% by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, argued my performance had deteriorated to the point where I was not capable anymore, after almost 20 years of service to help it make huge sums.
It made the argument, even though it knew my performance was becoming much better in important respects.
Last month, I lost the case, though I’m making requests for review of those decisions and I may appeal.
And now, even before the end of the process, Bloomberg is seeking the 40,000 pounds because it said I was unreasonable in the way I brought my lawsuit and persisted with it.
It’s saying this, even though its own barrister previously said in open court in September last year that I had a case and “at a stretch” I had a case for automatic unfair dismissal. Perhaps I misunderstood, because of my supposed “incapability”.
The Employment Tribunal concluded there was unfairness in my dismissal, but in the round dismissal was a fair-enough course of action in the range of options available to Bloomberg LP. The Employment Appeal Tribunal aggressively struck out my alleged whistleblowing.
I contend Bloomberg’s latest move to make me pay a small portion of its costs is a further example of periodic bullying behaviour it’s deployed against me for more than seven years, a practice I contend, is not fit for purpose in the modern workspace.
Going after me for costs is probably a signal to journalists, current employees and the wider society it will employ all tactics to discourage any criticism and scrutiny of the way Bloomberg LP rolls.
It comes at a time when British lawmakers are seeking to limit the ability of wealthy individuals to attack journalists using the U.K. legal system, supposedly one of the best in the world. I now seriously doubt that it is one of the best.
Litigating to intimidate is a form of aggressive legal warfare known as “lawfare.”
Lawmaker comments on the British legal system and “lawfare” (not on my case):
“What is attractive to legitimate businessmen is also attractive to those with nefarious intentions: there are are those with exceptionally deep pockets and exceptionally questionable ethics,” David Davis, the former Brexit minister, told UK Parliament on Jan. 20. “These people use our justice system to threaten, intimidate and put the fear of God into British journalists, citizens, officials and media organisations. What results is injustice, intimidation, suppression of free speech, the crushing of a free press, bullying and bankruptcy.”
Pretty shocking that a supposedly free-press media outlet should deploy lawfare tactics against one of its own, right? Well, I thought for almost 20 years I was one of its own.
Rated as one of 25 World-Best Workplaces in 2019, Bloomberg continues to harrass, intimidate and try to put the fear of bankruptcy into me. I reckon that’s lawfare.
Lawfare isn’t unlawful. Still the PressGazette says that in the US, “31 states protect publishers against what are known as “SLAPP” suits: strategic litigation against public participation, allowing the publisher to file a motion to dismiss a claim at an early stage in the proceedings. Similar laws have been passed in Canada and Australia – the EU has recognised the need for the same in Europe.”
Certain oligarchs are accused of lawfare.
Usually, it’s the instigator of the litigation that would be accused of it. Bloomberg might say it was merely defending itself against my claims.
Yet, I argue lawfare can work the other way. Defensive lawfare. I believe I’ve lived it.
This dispute did not begin when I made my claim in the Employment Tribunal, after being fired. It began when I used Bloomberg’s outside Navex ethics / whistleblowing hotline to complain about the news outfit’s inadequate news coverage of cost-efficient climate solutions. Using the hotline was encouraged.
Soon after I did that, managers decided to place me on a performance improvement program, but failed to tell me about that for almost two crazy months.
I contend my attempts at whistleblowing / collaboration were sneakily turned into a “grievance.” That wasn’t my idea. That was Bloomberg LP’s idea, too.
Not only is Bloomberg seeking costs from me, it’s apparently in favor of a hearing for this cost order.
(I’ve asked for clarity on this and I will let you know what Bloomberg says, if anything. I’ve also asked it to comment on my contention that it’s engaging in lawfare, a term that’s not yet defined in law. I’ve asked the U.K. Ministry of Justice whether it wants to comment and I’ve sought a meeting with Mr Davis).
[Actually thinking of it, all of these unanswered requests make me feel a little, well …incapable.]
What I do know is Bloomberg can spend about 24,000 pounds, just on its barrister, for one day in court, according to information it sent to me. It has at least four other legal representatives working on the “you’re-way-outnumbered” litigation.
Its solicitor is CMS, one of a few law firms singled out by UK lawmakers in January for taking advantage of litigation against journalists. (I’ve asked CMS to comment and, again, I will let you know what it says.)
The costs it will pay out for the hearing demonstrates that the money is not what’s important to Bloomberg LP, one of the most profitable firms on earth (although not as profitable as Shell).
Don’t get me wrong, money is really important to it. Bloomberg makes more than $1 billion of its $10 billion (plus plus plus) in yearly revenue from fossil-fuel-related business, I guesstimate (and Bloomberg won’t comment on my maths.) Yes, it also earns plenty from clean energy.
I contend its application for costs is probably about intimidation, something I already accused it of in one of December’s hearings.
The Judge and Bloomberg’s barrister found this amusing.
I asked at the hearing why they thought it was funny, and they didn’t answer. They moved quickly on to the important work at hand, which I contend had at least some of the hallmarks of lawfare.
I’m setting up this GoFundMe account to try to help pay for my sunk-and-future litigation costs, including any forthcoming cost order. I may raise the target if I get anywhere near reaching 40,000 pounds.
All of this, I’m more than fully aware, is distracting from the need for better news coverage of the climate crisis. Perhaps, that’s one of Bloomberg’s #predatorydelay of climate action objectives? I’m really not sure whether it’s faking on the need for green, or not.
So here I go to make the most important point of this whole episode (or “burying the lead” my former editor might have said).
Global heating will probably ruin many people’s futures and it’s certainly being more keenly felt in other parts of the world than the U.K. — and by people much worse off than me. That’s what much of the mainstream press isn’t reporting candidly. Of course it’s not just Bloomberg.
There’s systematic bias toward the status quo.
It shouldn’t be that way. The Paris climate deal has turned protecting the status quo into the group of activities known as “campaigning.” Reporting on the push for aggressive climate action is now a neutral stance for news reporters (but not, apparently, at Bloomberg while I was there).
Even now, see clean energy get the blame for high oil and natural gas prices, across much of the news media.
Any surplus funds that I raise will be spent on high-quality carbon credits from emerging-country projects that also help alleviate poverty, preferably those compliant with the accounting rules etc of the Paris climate deal. I’ll be transparent.
If you can help, please donate. No worries if you have better things to spend your money on. No pressure from me.
I am determined to keep trying to be a force for good, no matter what happens.
Bloomberg LP is such an important firm in the running of most big markets across the world. The issues we are fighting about go beyond climate to economic and market integrity … and transparency about where the incentives of big market players are.
Back in 2020, the Respondent could have and should have told me it didn’t want me to work there any more, in a much nicer way. That would have been fine. The Tribunal was a bit puzzled why it didn’t do this, too.
I’d be really grateful for any support, actually, either financial or in terms of spreading the word. I’m trying to run the case as a self litigant (and I’m evidently not doing a very good job) after blowing tens of thousands of pounds already to various lawyers — there’s that alleged incapability again, sigh, raising its ugly head?
More likely, the litigation system for climate whistleblowers is simply not fit for purpose. The UK government is also redoing its whistleblowing law too, so bring that on. And please, Mr David Davis, please push through with the anti-lawfare legislation.
More details at CarrZee.org’s home page… search for “Bloomberg” if you want to read more, including about the overweight fossil fuels Bloomberg commodity index. Send feedback, suggestions, comments, criticism to firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media.
(Updates with SLAPP, to correct misspelling of Public as Pubic [snigger blush]; adds more context, image; more to come)