On December 7, 2010, Grant Williams, the Asia equity trading head for global investment bank Jeffries, included a Downfall video mocking JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon in a company newsletter and the next day he was fired for unacceptable conduct. But a Hong Kong judge ruled today that the firing was "hypersensitive" and awarded Williams $1.86 million.
Yes, someone will actually be paid $1.86 million for sending one of the Internet's most common memes to his coworkers. Bloomberg's Bei Hu reports Hong Kong's Deputy High Court Judge Conrad Seagroatt ruled that Jeffries must pay Williams for damages covering lost salary and bonuses between June 2011 until July 2013. According to Seagrott, Jeffries' decision to fire Williams for sending a funny video to his coworkers was "irrational," too. Here's the video in question:
That anyone could have been fired for sending around a Downfall video in the first place is hilarious. It's a meme that had been done to death, even in 2010, and they're still really popular. The latest one that I saw was about a beloved hockey player betraying his franchise.
But the one Williams sent to his coworkers was about a 2010 campaign credited to Guardian commentator Max Keiser that urged people to buy silver in an effort to "crash" JPMorgan thanks to the investment firm's complicated financial bet against the commodity, we think. "Subtitles suggested Hitler’s character was Dimon, speaking in the context of bets on the price of silver," writes Bloomberg. And while we can't say definitively that this Downfall video is the one Williams passed around, the evidence supports the claim. It was uploaded on December 6, 2010, the day before Williams sent the video-carrying newsletter that got him fired. In it, the Nazi deputies are JPMorgan vice presidents informing Dimon, represented by Hitler, about the Silver campaign. Maybe there were others made, but this is the only one that still exists on Youtube.
Oh, and obviously that silver campaign didn't serve its purpose because JPMorgan is still around and so is Jamie Dimon. But Jeffries thought the video was insulting a competitor and occasional partner. According to the judge, the newsletter was supposed to be vetted and the link made it through due to "human error" or "a defect in the approval system," and that is not Williams' fault.
So rejoice, Hong Kong office slackers, a judge has ruled you can't be fired for sending funny Internet videos to your coworkers, even if it's in a company newsletter.