It emerged the male colleagues had been part of a group known as “the old guard”, in which offensive comments made about female colleagues and, in particular, one woman identified in court only as “D”.
In one exchange, Mr Wells, 39, had posted a “very graphic” pornographic video on which Mr Solari, 36, had commented: “D in a wig isn’t it?”, the court heard.
Bosses at Cathay recovered two months’ worth of posts on the WhatsApp group made between November 2016 and January 2017. The company’s barrister, Edward Levey, described some of the material was “totally degrading to women”.
“The female employees who were being discussed on the group were not aware of what was being said about them behind their backs but…if they had known, the women in question would have been horrified,” he told Judge Jonathan Simpkiss.
Chris Quinn, acting for Mr Wells and Mr Solari, asked the judge to rule that they were wrongfully dismissed and “did not act in material breach of their employment agreements”.
He said that the messages the company found on the WhatsApp group are irrelevant as they date from before the takeover.
“The sole reason for their dismissal was for Cathay Investments 2 Ltd to avoid paying them fair value for (the shares),” said Mr Quinn.