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Alex Haines and Victoria Brown successful in two cases at the World Bank Administrative Tribunal

Alex Haines and Victoria Brown successfully represented the applicants in two recent WBAT cases.

The World Bank Administrative Tribunal (“WBAT”) delivered last week its 8th November 2021 judgments in Cases Nos. 659 (GH v International Finance Corporation) and 660 (GI v International Finance Corporation). 

Alex Haines and Victoria Brown represented two Heads of Funds at the International Finance Corporation (“IFC”), one of the five World Bank Group Agencies together with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (“IBRD”), International Development Association (“IDA”), International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (“ICSID”) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (“MIGA”).

The decision

The WBAT ordered the IFC to pay compensation to the Applicants in the amount of six months’ salary net of taxes for the procedural irregularities in the voluntary separation process. The Tribunal also ordered the Applicants’ legal fees to be refunded in full.

Of relevance to international administrative law more generally, the WBAT held that “while management is not expected to produce overly detailed or exhaustive criteria and that staffing decisions will always import judgment by the individual decision-maker involved, the criteria and decisions must be fair and transparent, and the decisions based thereon amenable to judicial review. In the circumstances of the present case, the Tribunal finds the advertised selection criteria for the [voluntary separation] program lacked transparency.  In such circumstances it is not possible for the Tribunal to judicially review how, if at all, they were applied in this case and thus to evaluate whether the overall process was a fair one” (para. 98 in Case No. 659 and para. 96 in Case No. 660).

Moreover, the Tribunal held that it was “deeply concerned by the IFC’s statement that the selection criteria were intentionally not communicated to staff so as to prevent staff from “argu[ing] their eligibility” or in other words contesting the decision on [voluntary separation]. A decision to use overly broad selection criteria for the purpose of shortening the management decision-making process or shielding management from having to deal with staff compensation for positions, coupled with a decision to not keep records that show how the selection criteria were applied, demonstrates a regrettable want of procedural fairness. Attempting to insulate managerial decisions from review is unacceptable” (para. 104 in Case No. 659 and para. 102 in Case No. 660).

Lastly, the Tribunal “reemphasize[d] the importance of relevant contemporaneous documentation of the basis of managerial actions affecting a staff member. Contemporaneous documents are generally more reliable records of the decision-making process and tend to be more valuable when a decision is challenged […]. Still, without any relevant contemporaneous documentation, however minimal, it is difficult to ascertain whether managerial discretion was exercised fairly and transparently” (para. 113 in Case No. 659 and para. 111 in Case No. 660).

About the World Bank Administrative Tribunal

The WBAT was established by the Board of Governors of the Bank in 1980. It acts as a judicial forum of last resort for the resolution of cases submitted by World Bank Group staff members alleging non-observance of their contracts of employment or terms of appointment. The WBAT’s decisions are final and binding on the Bank.

The WBAT is composed of seven judges, all of whom are nationals of different Bank Member States. The WBAT is governed by its Statute and follows its own Rules of Procedure, most recently amended on 25th October 2019. All the WBAT’s judgments and orders are published on its website. The current WBAT President is from Barbados, and the other judges are from Iran, France, USA, Liberia, Canada and Ireland.

Find out more

Alex Haines is a specialist in international law, with particular expertise in the extensive field of international organisations law.

Victoria Brown practises primarily in pensions and employment, often with an international law angle.

You can find out more about our International Organisations practice on our expertise page.

News, International 16 Dec, 2021

Authors

Alex Haines

Call: 2007 (England & Wales); 2019 (New York); and 2020 (Ireland)

Victoria Brown

Call: 2014

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