Bandar Seri Begawan - Former employees of NBT (Brunei) Sdn Bhd have filed a lawsuit against the company for allegedly "siphoning off portions of finance commissions", which they claim are rightfully theirs, allegedly making deductions from the finance commissions due to them and allegedly retaining portions of it for the benefit of the company.
A copy of the lawsuit and a follow-up defence response made by NBT, which have been filed with the High Court, were obtained by the Borneo Bulletin and it describes the finance commissions as being monies paid by finance companies to the plaintiffs, as agents, for the sale of the company's motor vehicles.
Represented by law firm Sankaran Halim, the plaintiffs comprise 20 individuals, two of whom have passed away with one substituted by an administrator and the law firm is still waiting to extract the other individual's letter of administration.
Solicitors for the defendant, NBT, CCW Partnership, have denied the plaintiffs statement of claim in their defence stating that the contract of employment between the plaintiffs and the company had spelt out that they will be "eligible for commission earnings at such rates and under such conditions as are determined by the company from time to time".
The reply by the defendant to the suit further states that in the plaintiff's contract, either directly or implied: "It must be clearly understood that the constantly changing pattern of the market and differing results obtained by sales representatives themselves necessitates periodic review of the allocation of various lines and sales territories to individual sales representatives and commission rates payable.
"These are matters for the determination at the sole discretion of the company but every endeavour will be made to ensure that your rewards are commensurate with your individual efforts."
The plaintiffs in their lawsuit have claimed that they have "lost the benefit of enjoying the full amounts that should be paid to them as the said finance commission lawfully earned and thereby put the plaintiffs into considerable trouble, inconvenience and expense and they have thereby suffered loss and damage".
It was explained in the lawsuit that in 2004, the defendant had allegedly "unlawfully interfered" with the arrangements between the plaintiffs and the said finance institutions and "had proceeded to convince the finance companies to pay the finance commissions directly to the defendant", which, allegedly, had effectively ceased direct finance commission payments to the plaintiffs.
They have further claimed that the defendant has "failed to give any reason(s) for their course of conduct in relation to the said arrangement apart from merely stating that there was a directive that was issued by the Ministry of Finance some time on or about October 2009 upon which the said finance companies were directed to make the payments of the finance commissions directly to the defendant".
"Despite repeated demands by the plaintiffs," the lawsuit further stated, "the defendant failed, neglected and refuses to reply to the plaintiffs on their request for the defendant to account to the plaintiffs on the issue of the said finance commissions that are due to them, which is/or is in the possession, custody and control of the defendant."
The lawsuit also states that the sales representative-finance institution financial arrangement "was at all material times" made known to the defendant, describing the arrangement as "custom and practice" and that the defendant "had allowed and/or consented to the fact that the plaintiffs could act as agents for the said finance companies and receive and retain the finance commissions paid by the finance companies as referral fees".
The defendant has denied that the "plaintiffs entered into the said finance contract or any contract or arrangement with the finance companies that entitled the plaintiffs to the payment of finance commission", as alleged in their lawsuit and also denied "each and every allegation of fact set out in the Statement of Claim".
In addition to the plaintiffs' basic salary, stated the defendant in their defence, each plaintiff was paid a sales commission for every motor vehicle sold for the defendant; paid each plaintiff various other sales incentives; permitted each plaintiff to receive a finance commission (if any) for assisting the defendant's customers to apply for hire purchase finance if a sale was by hire purchase finance; paid each plaintiff an annual bonus of two to three months' salary; and provided the plaintiffs with two to four overseas trips per year with all expenses paid for.
When approached by the Weekend Bulletin, NBT said: "NBT does not comment on situations regarding our former employees. We have filed a defence in the High Court Civil Suit No 93 of 2011 in respect of which we will continue to defend and refute the claim.
"As the matter is now before the Courts, it will not be appropriate for us to make any further comments on the matter."
The plaintiffs are seeking claims for relief to include "a declaration that the defendant's actions of making deduction(s) from the said finance commissions received by the defendant are rightfully due to the plaintiffs is unlawful and/or illegal and therefore null and void except those deductions that are expressly provided for by the governing laws that are currently in force in Brunei Darussalam; an order that the defendant be directed to give an account of all the said finance commissions that have been received by the defendant from the said finance companies and which is due to the plaintiffs previously, now or in the future.
"Upon such account being rendered, a declaration that all the sums due to the plaintiffs as the said finance commissions are to be held on trust by the defendant for the benefit of the plaintiffs; an order that the defendant be directed to pay to the plaintiffs all sums, which are due to the plaintiffs (after the taking of such account which is held by the defendant as constructive trustees for the plaintiffs)."
Monetary interest on the claimed amount due are also being sought at six per cent per annum from the date of judgment until full and final settlement, exemplary damages, interest on sums awarded for such damages along with other costs.
Another five individuals, meanwhile, are also seeking similar claims and are being represented by Ahmad Zakaria and Associates under a different suit.--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin