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A lawsuit Thursday sent Wall Street and the City of London buzzing, given that it mentions a "whistleblower," an unnamed "notorious European businessman," and a handful of Goldman Sachs bankers, one of whom is a member of the incoming CEO's inner circle and others nicknamed by some at the firm as the Aussie mafia.
Christopher Rollins, a managing director and 16-year veteran of the bank, sued the firm over what he alleges was an unfair termination over his role in a series of transactions involving a financier that he didn't name, according to the suit, which seeks $50 million in damages.
The complaint names Jim Esposito — promoted this week to cohead of Goldman's securities division — as a defendant and details involvement of the Goldman bankers Michael Daffey and John Storey, among other leaders.
The suit talks about several transactions Goldman conducted on behalf of the financier, who had legal issues in the past, the complaint says.
Multiple people familiar with the matter believe the financier in question is the German entrepreneur Lars Windhorst, though Mike Sitrick, a spokesman for Windhorst, said in an emailed statement: "We strongly deny that the unnamed executive mentioned in the lawsuit is Lars. The allegations in the suit do not support that supposition."
Windhorst, the chairman of a firm called Sapinda Group, is said to be a protégé of former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. In the past, he's filed for bankruptcy and been involved in numerous legal battles. In 2012, an article in Financial News referred to him, approvingly, as Germany's "modern-day Medici."
The complaint says the entire affair started when Daffey and Storey met with the financier in 2015 to explore ways the firm could bring him on as a client.
The two are among the most senior members of Goldman's equities business. The Financial Times reported that Storey earlier this year attended the infamous President's Club dinner in London, where, the newspaper has reported, women servers were groped and propositioned. Daffey was also on the President's Club invite list, though the firm has said he didn't attend.
Hailing from Australia, the two are known by some internally as the Aussie mafia, according to some people who know them. Michael DuVally, a Goldman spokesman, declined to comment on the characterization, and neither exec returned phone calls seeking comment.
The complaint alleges the financier told the bankers that he had $1 billion to invest. Rollins claims that while he had met the financier socially, he never sought to do business with him.
Here's what we can ascertain about the timeline of alleged events, from the complaint:
Rollins claims that Daffey, the co-chief operating officer for the equities unit, and Storey, a cohead of equity sales for the region, told him they had "arranged" for Esposito to be the decision-maker and that he would be a "friendly arbitrator," the complaint says. Rollins alleges that Daffey told him that if he "didn't fight the charges, and was 'contrite,' he'd receive no more than a slap on the wrist." Rollins claims in the complaint that he didn't do anything wrong.
DuVally said that "the suit is without merit, and we intend to vigorously contest it."
He added: "As referenced in a filing the firm made in March 2017, Mr. Rollins executed certain trades involving a previously restricted party without obtaining appropriate authorization. As a result, his employment was terminated."
That filing is part of Rollins' employment record, known as a U5, kept by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Rollins' record also includes his rebuttal: "In March, Goldman Sach & Co filed disclosures information on my U-5 which I believe is inaccurate and plan to contest."
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