Ronald Greenidge, the former UBS AG (UBSN) managing director fired for gross misconduct in his supervision of convicted trader Kweku Adoboli, sued the bank claiming it treated him more harshly than others because he’s black.
Greenidge, who was UBS’s head of European cash trading, alleges race discrimination and unfair dismissal in a lawsuit filed in June at a London employment tribunal, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg News.
“There are stark discrepancies” between UBS’s treatment of Greenidge and other people connected to Adoboli, according to the complaint. Greenidge “is of black Caribbean origin. Mr. Adoboli is of black African origin. The claimant believes he has been treated less favorably than his” white counterparts.
Adoboli, originally from Ghana, was sentenced to seven years in prison on Nov. 20 for fraud tied to a $2.3 billion loss, the largest from unauthorized trading in U.K. history. The bank was later fined 29.7 million pounds ($47.6 million) by a U.K. regulator for weaknesses in management systems and internal controls that allowed Adoboli to make risky trades.
At least 11 employees left Zurich-based UBS, either through firings or resignations, after Adoboli revealed the massive losses in an e-mail on Sept. 14, 2011. They included former Chief Executive Officer Oswald Gruebel and Adoboli’s co-workers on the exchange-traded funds desk -- John Hughes, Simon Taylor and Christophe Bertrand.
The lawsuit is one of several against the bank for unfair dismissal because of the loss, at least one of which has settled. The limit on damages for unfair dismissal in England is 72,300 pounds, while awards for race discrimination are unlimited. UBS spokesman Oliver Gadney declined to comment.
Greenidge, who was born in Britain, worked at the bank for almost two decades and made 286,000 pounds a year, including his bonus, according to the complaint. His nickname, used by the ETF traders, was Mace Windu, after the “Star Wars” character played by Samuel L. Jackson, according to his testimony at Adoboli’s two-month trial.
Greenidge said in his complaint the bank fired him based on “weak and unsubstantiated allegations” in a process “tainted with a sense of pre-determination.” The ex-manager said he was given two days to prepare for an internal disciplinary hearing in October last year, while UBS had six weeks to ready itself.
The bank denied the allegations and said in tribunal papers that Greenidge “did not take his supervisory responsibilities as seriously as he should have.”
Greenidge’s lawyer, Tim Spillane of Stewarts Law LLP, declined to comment on the case because it’s “subject to ongoing legal proceedings.”
Adoboli’s lawyer, Charles Sherrard, said Greenidge was like “a father figure” to the ETF traders -- a description Greenidge rejected in court. He appeared close to fainting at one point in his testimony and told the judge he needed a break.
Sherrard had argued Adoboli should be cleared because Greenidge and other managers failed to uncover the secret transactions and encouraged risky trading in a drive for profit.
Greenidge oversaw the ETF desk until April of last year, when it was moved to the global synthetic-equities department overseen by John DiBacco in New York. Greenidge claimed he was the only person in the cash-equities department to be suspended or fired over the scandal, even though the losses occurred after he no longer supervised the desk.
UBS never gave Greenidge a “coherent or credible response” when he asked why he was the only one in the department to be fired, he said. Both DiBacco and Greenidge testified they were unfairly dismissed and made scapegoats.
DiBacco testified in September that he was asked to resign after the loss. He refused and was fired in January, receiving a letter from UBS saying he didn’t “ensure the ETF desk had adequate supervision” and didn’t investigate why its revenue had increased substantially.
“I do not agree that I failed,” DiBacco said.
UBS suspended Greenidge for five months before he was fired, and the process has had a “grave” impact on his family, his health and reputation, he said in the complaint.
After Adoboli sent the confession e-mail to management, Greenidge was asked by Phil Allison, UBS’s global head of cash, to call Adoboli’s mobile phone, ask him to come to the office and conduct the first interview, which he did. Adoboli was arrested the next day.
Greenidge said he suspects the request he call Adoboli “may have been motivated by the bank’s (perhaps unconscious) stereotypical assumption that the claimant and Mr. Adoboli shared a bond due to their related black ethnicity.”
In UBS’s defense papers, the bank said Greenidge was chosen to make the call because he “had worked with him closely for a number of years and had a good working relationship with him.”
Greenidge said in his testimony that he had daily contact with Adoboli after he became a trader in 2006 until the time he was arrested, sitting one aisle away on the trading floor.
Greenidge said he gave UBS a list of other people responsible for supervising Adoboli or managing some aspect of the trading processes he used in the fraud, who weren’t interviewed or disciplined the way he was. He said discussing his concerns with UBS was like “talking to a brick wall.”
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