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Citigroup trader says bank turned 'blind eye' to misconduct

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 11:05
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A Citigroup Inc trader fired following global probes into foreign-exchange market manipulation said the bank turned a "blind eye" to sharing client information when it suited the business until regulators began lengthy investigations in 2013.

[LONDON] A Citigroup Inc trader fired following global probes into foreign-exchange market manipulation said the bank turned a "blind eye" to sharing client information when it suited the business until regulators began lengthy investigations in 2013.

Traders would routinely disclose client orders to rivals and salespeople would warn preferred clients about trades before they moved markets if it benefited Citigroup, Baris Ozkaptan, who is suing the bank for unfair dismissal, said in a witness statement made public Tuesday by a London employment court.

"The bank either turned a blind eye or took very limited action, which was consistent with the general approach to sharing client information at that time," Mr Ozkaptan said in the statement.

"If there was wrongdoing, it was not the fault of one or even some, it was in my view based on a misunderstanding, fed by a culture that applied to everyone."

Mr Ozkaptan was fired for telling rivals the identities of clients in eight electronic chats during the 12 months ending in Nov 2012, Conor Davis, the bank's head of EMEA credit sales, said Nov 23, the first day of the hearing.

Mr Ozkaptan is the fifth London-based FX trader to sue Citigroup for wrongful dismissal in the aftermath of the market manipulation scandal that cost banks about US$10 billion in fines. At least three other banks were also sued by traders fired amid the fallout.

"It is very clear what is confidential and what isn't - it should be common sense," Mr Davis said while giving evidence.

"Everyone knows what is and isn't material, and if you ask a client, they wouldn't want any disclosures of what they were doing whatsoever."

Mr Ozkaptan, 41, joined Citibank as an associate in Istanbul in 1999 and rose to become an emerging markets foreign exchange trader with a salary of 90,000 pounds (S$159,667) by 2009.

During his time as a trader he was regularly praised for his trading skills and results, but received criticism for a "lack of information sharing and gathering," he said.

His evidence mirrors that given by former colleagues Perry Stimpson, Robert Hoodless and Carly McWilliams, who claimed they were not given adequate training in what constituted confidential information and followed what they understood the rules to be at the time.

They've had mixed results at the tribunal. Judge Alison Russell ruled all three were unfairly dismissed, but declined to award substantial damages because they'd contributed to their own demise.

Another trader, David Madaras, has also sued but is yet to reach court due to scheduling problems.

"I believe that I did not disclose client confidential information as I understood that concept and as it was applied in practice by the bank at the time in question,"

Mr Ozkaptan said in his statement. "I certainly never intended to do anything wrong or improper."

Citigroup fired Mr Ozkaptan and other employees who were found to have engaged in misconduct after a bank investigation, a spokeswoman said.

"Individual accountability continues to be important to Citi and for that reason we are defending Baris Ozkaptan's case in the employment tribunal," the spokeswoman said.

"We expect our employees to adhere to the highest ethical standards."

Winnings at UK employment tribunals are capped at about 80,000 pounds unless claimants can prove they were victims of discrimination or suffered detriment for disclosing corporate misconduct.

BLOOMBERG