A piece by David Brown in yesterday’s Times:
The telecoms billionaire John Caudwell described yesterday how he had “been to hell and back” after a judge called his former righthand woman a remarkably unsatisfactory witness.
Nathalie Dauriac claimed that she was unfairly dismissed from the investment company she founded with Mr Caudwell and was offered a nominal £2 for shares that she calculated were worth £17 million.
A High Court judge ruled that the French-born wine heiress should receive £471,510 compensation for the shares she held in Signia Wealth.
Mr Caudwell, who made £1.5 billion from the sale of his majority stake in Phones4U in 2006, fell out with Ms Dauriac after alleging that she had fraudulently claimed £33,000 of expenses, including gifts and flights for herself, her then husband, and their children and nanny. Mr Justice Smith described Ms Dauriac, 40, as “combative, argumentative [and] prone to exaggeration”. He found that she “deliberately made expense claims that she knew were not proper claims” under the company’s rules.
Mr Caudwell, 65, said after the judgment: “Over the last three years I have been to hell and back as a consequence of a series of vindictive and completely baseless allegations made against me in the course of high-profile legal proceedings with . . . Nathalie Dauriac. She waged what felt like a campaign of terror in an effort to extort £20 million from me in the clear expectation that I would ultimately surrender and settle out of court. She was totally wrong in that assumption. I am delighted that Nathalie has been found by the judge to have been, in his words, dishonest, combative, aggressive and argumentative.”
The court was told that Mr Caudwell had put £700 million of his fortune into Signia Wealth. The judge described him as emotional but clear and articulate and said he had given reliable evidence despite suffering from Lyme disease, which can impair memory.
Ms Dauriac said yesterday that she had written to Lord Justice Vos, the chancellor of the High Court, to ask him to look into judicial attitudes towards professional women. She said: “During the trial there was also evidence showing that I and other female employees of John Caudwell were subject to written abuse by senior management. We were called many names, including ‘sociopath’ and ‘nasty bitch’.
“I am shocked that Mr Justice Smith should not consider this material to the case and I believe the judicial system needs to do more to ensure that women are protected from such abuse.”
You can subscribe to The Times here.