Former Fortress MD drops discrimination case

Following a nine day hearing, the former managing director who filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against the firm has withdrawn his claim.

Former Fortress Investment Group managing director Michael Johnson, who filed a lawsuit against the investment firm for terminating his employment in July 2015 while he was undergoing treatment for motor neurone disease, has withdrawn his claim, PERE's sister publication, Private Funds Management, reported today.

“Michael Johnson acknowledges that, having sat through the proceedings and listened to the testimony of his former colleagues, he is comfortable that the decision made by Fortress and Christopher Linkas concerning Mr Johnson’s employment was not taken on the basis of his disability or any other discriminatory factor. On terms which are confidential between the parties, Mr Johnson has decided to withdraw his claim,” according to a statement from the parties.

The case was held for nine days in the Central London Employment Tribunal in July. Fortress’s New York-based co-chief investment officer Constantine Dakolias was called to give evidence, alongside other senior members of the firm.

Johnson joined Fortress’s credit team in March 2014 and was responsible for sourcing direct corporate lending opportunities for Fortress Europe. He reported to Chris Linkas, head of European credit, whom he was also suing alongside the firm.

Johnson was dismissed on July 30 2015 and claimed he was fired “without warning” as his symptoms started to show, just four days after he returned to work following treatment, according to his witness statement. Fortress maintained that Johnson was dismissed because the deals he presented were not in line with the firm’s requirements, while Johnson said he was never told his performance was unsatisfactory.

Johnson was advised by law firm Mishcon de Reya, which also represented Terra Firma in its recent unsuccessful lawsuit against Citi Group. The firm famously handled Princess Diana’s divorce proceedings from Prince Charles and is currently representing a group of clients seeking to stop the UK Government triggering Article 50 to leave the EU.

Fortress was advised by GQ Employment Law and barrister Daniel Stilitz QC of 11KBW.