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Employee not liable for £200,000 scammed from company

Posted: 9th January 2020   In: Business Employment, Individual Employment

An employee who was duped into transferring nearly £200,000 to online scammers while her bosses were on annual leave will not have to pay back the money to her employers.

Patricia Reilly worked as a credit controller for Peebles Media Group (PMG). She was left in charge while her managing director, Yvonne Bremner, and line manager, referred to in court as CC, were both on annual leave.

She received an email, apparently from Bremner, asking her to transfer £24,800 to another company.

Reilly was not authorised to make the payment so managed to contact CC who then processed the payment online.  

Reilly later received similar emails asking her to transfer £75,200, £56,750 and £36,500. She complied each time, after contacting CC to confirm the PIN needed to access the online banking system.

The company later discovered the emails had come from a scammer and they had lost a total of £193,250.

The bank refunded £85,000, leaving PMG with a loss of £107,984.

The company dismissed Reilly for gross misconduct and took action against her to recoup the remainder of the lost money.

PGM claimed the emails were ‘obviously fraudulent’ and that Reilly was in breach of her obligation to exercise reasonable skill and care.

However, the Scotland Court of Session ruled in favour of Reilly.

The Judge, Lord Summers, said Reilly could not have breached her obligations as she had contacted her line manager. The line manager had also been responsible for clearing the initial payment and had also provided Reilly with security details.

Please contact us for more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.

Patricia Reilly v Peebles Media Group

Judge, Lord Summers

Scotland Court of Session
Posted by: David Rushmere
Luton Office