Stimpson v Citibank N.A: forex trader wins unfair dismissal claim

redmans-blog-newsThe Employment Tribunal has ruled in favour of a former Citibank forex trader in respect of his claims for unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal after he was sacked for sharing information on the Bloomberg instant messaging application.

Mr Perry Stimpson was employed by Citibank N.A (“Citibank”) as a trader in its EMEA G10 Spot foreign exchange (“forex”) trading business in London from January 1989 to the date of his dismissal (20 November 2014).

In Mr Stimpson’s annual appraisals in 2009 and 2010 he was encouraged by his line manager to maintain contacts in the forex industry, and it was suggested to him that he could join an online chat room in order to obtain better market information. At the time Citibank had access to an online Bloomberg chat room facility that enabled members of the chat room to directly message each other. Mr Stimpson was not given guidance on what should and should not be posted in the chat room. However, a code of conduct was issued annually by Citibank which stated that employees should not disclose any confidential information to any third parties and, further, employees were provided with a handbook which stipulated that it should be assumed that any information gained in the course of employment should be deemed to be confidential.

In July 2010, concerns were raised by an employee to a senior manager that improper use was being made of the chatrooms. However, this complaint was not followed up. In January 2013 Citibank ordered its FX spot traders to stop using the chat rooms.

On 7 March 2014 Mr Stimpson was suspended from work and it was alleged that he had inappropriately shared client confidential information with traders at other banks in Bloomberg chat rooms between February 2010 and August 2010, including code names that identified clients of Citibank.

An investigation was undertaken and a formal disciplinary hearing was held. Mr Stimpson’s primary defence to the allegations put to him was that his actions should be considered in the context of the “normal” culture of information-sharing at Citibank  and that it would be unfair for Citibank to decide his case before an FCA investigation into forex trading at Citibank concluded.

In October 2015 the chair of the disciplinary hearing came to the conclusion that Mr Stimpson should be summarily dismissed on the basis of the allegations put to him.

On 15 November 2014 the FCA issued a ‘Final Notice’ and imposed a fine of just over £225.5 million. The Final Notice found that Citibank had failed to take adequate steps to ensure that its general policies concerning confidentiality, conflicts of interest and trading conduct were implemented in its G10 spot forex trading business, and that there was an absence of training and guidance on how these policies should be applied in the G10 forex trading business.

On 20 November 2014 a letter was sent to Mr Stimpson informing him that he was being summarily dismissed for gross misconduct.

Mr Stimpson brought claims to the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal. The case came to the Employment Tribunal earlier this year, with the Employment Tribunal finding in Mr Stimpson’s favour in both claims. The Employment Tribunal held that Citibank’s investigation into Mr Stimpson had been too ‘superficial’ in nature, and reserved particular criticism for the ‘blinkered’ nature with which the managers had undertaken the disciplinary and appeal hearings – the Tribunal deemed that it would have been reasonable to take account of separate internal audits by Citibank and the FCA’s final notice, issues which were not considered by the various panels.

Despite finding in Mr Stimpson’s favour in his claims the Tribunal did, however, consider that Mr Stimpson had contributed to his dismissal by engaging in “foolish” chats on the online chatboards. The issues relating to contributory fault will be heard at a further remedies hearing.

Case: Stimpson v Citibank N.A ET/3200437/15