International Business & Economy CEO based in Singapore paid S$25,000 monthly to do nothing, loses S$3.2...

CEO based in Singapore paid S$25,000 monthly to do nothing, loses S$3.2 million lawsuit

French courts turn down man's bid for retirement payout following his company's merger with another firm

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Paris — A former senior executive of one of the biggest cement manufacturers in the world  had been based in Singapore for a few years and was paid around S$25,000 a month basically to do nothing, according to French court documents.

When his employer, Lafarge, merged with another company, Holcim, a few years ago, Mr Antoine Zenone had sued for a retirement payout of S$3.2 million, based on the staff buyout that ensued as part of the merger. However, since he had already agreed to an expatriate position that had been offered to him in Singapore, French courts turned down his suit.

His acceptance of the position in Singapore meant that his employment with Lafarge in France had been suspended. Because of this, Mr Zenone was no longer eligible for the buyout offers made to the staff.

A report from Bloomberg says it all boiled down to timing.

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Mr Zenone had sent an email accepting an expatriate position in Singapore two days before the company made the announcement that around 380 staff would be let go of, some of which would be on a voluntary basis.

If he had waited two days before his acceptance of the Singapore position, it may have been possible for him to have been part of the buyout.

He later asked to be restored to a French contract, claiming he had been misled into agreeing to take the job in Singapore.

In 2016, he told Lafarge that the only reason he had accepted the Singapore posting was because he believed he would one day be the CEO of Lafarge and Holcim’s operations in the country. The company was not convinced of this.

At the appeal hearing, the judges, too, were not convinced by this. They ruled last week: “He can’t claim that his job was made impossible given that he continued to occupy his post for almost three years.” 

Lafarge and Holcim merged in 2015, a cost-cutting measure as well as an endeavour to boost value. However, Lafarge Holcim has seen a drop in shares since the merger because of a scandal in Syria and a drop in investor confidence, Bloomberg added.

The ruling from the French courts showed that Mr Zenone worked as the CEO of the Lafarge office in Singapore from 2015 to 2018 and had been paid a €16,195 (S$25,000) gross salary monthly for not doing anything.

After he returned to France in 2018, Lafarge offered him a position as a project manager, which he did not accept.

According to his LinkedIn profile, he now works as the Territory Director for France and Iberia for the Wavin Group, a supplier of plastic pipe systems and solutions. He started with the company in April 2020. /TISG

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