The award was made by the Employment Appeals Tribunal and is understood to be the largest unfair dismissals compensation award ever made in the State.
Mr Smith – who had been earning a remuneration package of €620,000 a year – resigned from the company in 2013 following revelations of discrepancies in the accounts.
He had told the tribunal that he had been suspended by an RSA senior executive in a television interview without being told in advance. He had also noted that a draft investigation into him had been sent to the Central Bank without giving him any chance to refute the allegations in it.
However, RSA had argued that Mr Smith resigned when he realised that the company’s financial irregularities were about to be exposed. RSA had also alleged that expenses irregularities uncovered by the company contributed to his decision to resign before going through an imminent disciplinary process.
In the conclusion of today’s EAT ruling, barrister Niamh O’Carroll Kelly said the Tribunal was satisfied that from an early stage in the investigation into Mr Smith’s conduct and performance, or perhaps even before it, the claimant’s fate had been determined by RSA. She found that RSA then went on a “fact-finding exercise” to justify its predetermined decision.
She also found that suspending Mr Smith on national television was the equivalent of taking a sledgehammer to his reputation, to his prospects of ever securing employment in this industry again in Ireland, in Europe and very possibly beyond – and it sealed his fate with the respondent RSA forever.
She said that in light of that, the tribunal is making an award of €1.25m.
While the €1.25m award is the largest ever made by the EAT, Mr Smith will have to pay his own legal costs, which are believed to be substantial.
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