Following our recent report of a notorious court action in the UK actuated by the racist abuse of an asian art dealer by a white working class auctioneer at Phillips auctions in London , the Economic Times has secured an interview with Mr Paul De Bono , head of operations at Phillips UK and Ms Proud’s boss who summarily dismissed her in 2015. Proud, according to documents released by the English attorney Anthony Jayes LLP, has appeared in court twice previously on charges of racially aggravated abuse. She is currently embroiled in a high court action for defamation . Mr De Bono has been reported by Mr Jayes to the Commission for Racial Equality. We thank Mr Jayes for releasing court documents and emails to Mr Partiyal of Reuters on which this interview is based. We believe it is of topical interest following a dramatic rise in racist attacks on Muslim and Hindu communities in the UK and Europe.
reporting by Anand Jaisingh with additional reporting by Jagdish Mehta and Reuters .
Anand jaisingh: Mr De Bono, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed by The Economic Times.You are head of operations at Phillips UK, directly responsible to CEO Edward Dolman who after deliberating with you and your colleague Nicola Mason decided to dismiss Lou Proud from her position as Head of Photography at Phillips UK. Is that correct ?
Paul De Bono: That is correct. Proud was warned twice by Nicola Mason to refrain from using her work address to racially abuse a Phillips client . Her position became untenable after emails from her server were disclosed by a court order procured by Anthony Jayes , the solicitor for the complainant.
Jaisingh: You were reported by Jayes to the CRE for racially motivated harassment of the complainant , an Asian man whom Proud racially abused in emails written, to quote Jayes, as ‘ ostensibly head of photography at Phillips’. Jayes informed us last week that the CRE has yet to make an adjudication. Do you have any comment to make ?
De Bono: I strenuously refute the allegation. My first duty of care was to Ms Proud to ensure she was able to perform her duties as head of photography without hindrance. Nicola Mason told her that we had to balance our legal duty of care with the defendant’s right to continue to earn a living . Our attitude changed when emails from Proud’s server containing both racist remarks and threats were disclosed to senior management and to the CEO Edward Dolman.
Jaisingh: One email from Proud admits she that was being treated for longstanding mental problems during her employment by Phillips. Proud’s own legal team at Kingsley Napley admitted that she had been arrested and questioned for racially abusing a hotel employee some years earlier. Presumably you were ignorant of these matters when you hired her ?
De Bono: This is an internal matter. I have no comment to make other than it is being thoroughly investigated, given that the case in being re opened and Proud faces other charges.
Jaisingh: The tone of your emails to Jayes and his client, which Jayes has shown us, could be interpreted as racist. It is a matter of record that Proud had made false allegations of harassment prior to joinIng Phillips. We have seen corroborative police documents , the complainant had no criminal record and to quote Jayes is a ‘ man of unimpeachable integrity ‘. Do you regret the language you used ?
De Bono: I do . And I offered a formal apology to both Jayes and his client. But my behaviour and language , which in the context of protecting Ms Proud from her fears of harassment which turned out to be exaggerated were appropriate and conformed to the strict guidelines which Phillips management is obliged to follow.
Jaisingh: Did you advise security to ban this gentleman of ‘ impeccable character ‘ to quote Jayes, merely on Proud’s hysrerical and ungrounded fears ?
De Bono : I did , but I recanted as soon as Proud’s emails were disclosed to management. I concede we made an error of judgement but with the limited information available we acted on the advice of our solicitors. We we were concerned that we might be in breach of employment laws if we ignored her complaints.
Jaisingh : In your opinion is Proud a racist ?
De Bono: It’s hard to say. Some of her reported comments were racist. But I do not believe she is inherently racist. She was closely questioned by management and she admitted she had lied and was confused about dates and events on which her complaints hinged. I’m sorry we parted company on bad terms. She’s a likeable character if somewhat eccentric. I’m pleased that she is undergoing long term term therapy for her psychological problems.
Jaisingh: Proud paid £10,000 as a last minute settlement to avoid a high court hearing and offered a formal written apology. Surely that confirms her guilt ? Would you re hire her if she were to apply for a position at Phillips ?
De Bono: Under the circumstances I’d have to say no.
Jaisingh: Were you aware that Proud was ejected by security when attempting to enter Phillip’s New York premises?
De Bono : I was . It was unfortunate as she was advised not to go.
Jainsingh: Are you aware that Proud faces allegations of the theft of three valuable art pieces prior to her departure to Qatar and was questioned by local police ? Is it true that she is being sued by two parties including Phillips auctions ?
De Bono : I am aware of the allegations but have no comment to make. This is ‘ sub judice’ and is being handled by Phillip’s solicitors. I understand Proud is leaving her position at the Qatar Museum Authority next month and may be taking up a position at a French gallery.
Jaisingh: It’s rumoured that Proud may be taking a position at the Thierry Marlat gallery .
De Bono: I can’t comment. Nicola Mason has stayed in touch with her. I suggest you speak to her.