Dishonesty at Heart of Ban for Ex-BlackRock Director Train Cheat

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Cannon Street Train Station
Cannon Street Train Station in London. On Nov. 19, 2013, Burrows was stopped by a transport officer at the exit gates of London’s Cannon Street station after failing to purchase a valid ticket for his entire journey. Photographer: Pawel Libera/LightRocket via Getty Images

Banished from the U.K. financial industry for arbitraging his daily rail fare, a former managing director at BlackRock Asset Management Investor Services Ltd. has become an emblem of regulators' efforts to crack down on ethical lapses.

The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority banned Jonathan Burrows from all regulated financial-services work, saying he “lacks honesty and integrity” after cheating to pay less for his commute. Burrows paid London & South Eastern Railway Ltd. 43,000 pounds ($67,300) to cover at least five years of underpaid fares, according to the train company.

Burrows’s exploitation of the way railway prices are calculated echoes the behavior of traders who tried to profit by gaming currency and interest-rate benchmarks -- in the face of rules requiring honest personal conduct. Banning someone from the industry over conduct outside the workplace shows how far the FCA is willing to reach as it tries to rebuild trust in London’s financial markets, lawyers said.

The FCA requirements for so-called approved persons “are not simply limited to conduct in the workplace between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” said Simon Hart, a London-based lawyer at RPC LLP. “While the FCA are not there to punish every minor infringement of the law outside of work, his actions were deemed dishonest and that is where the line is drawn.”

On Nov. 19, 2013, Burrows was stopped by a transport officer at the exit gates of London’s Cannon Street station for not having a ticket valid for his entire journey. The former money manager used his London travel card to exit the station, paying 7.20 pounds rather than the 21.50 pounds he should have paid for traveling in from beyond the capital’s borders. Burrows told the FCA that he’d done it a number of times and knew he’d been breaking the law.

Honesty, Integrity

Burrows was “foolish” and he regretted his actions, saying in an e-mailed statement that his 20-year financial career had been “without blemish.” His conduct was contrary to BlackRock’s values and principles, the world’s biggest money manager said in an e-mailed statement.

No similar examples of penalties for conduct so unrelated to what the person was approved to do have been made public. The regulator is working to tighten its scrutiny of people going into roles that require its authorization -- typically client-facing work -- and honesty, integrity and reputation are three core values it looks at when considering whether to grant approval to work in the industry.

Anthony Verrier, former BGC Partners Inc. executive managing director, was banned by the FCA in January over his involvement in hiring away brokers from competitor Tullett Prebon Plc. In doing so, Verrier had acted without integrity, the regulator concluded.

In authorizing someone to work as “an approved person, they look specifically at their honesty and integrity,” said Peter Bibby, a London-based lawyer and former head of enforcement at the U.K. markets regulator. “Misdemeanors outside of work such as speeding or drinking might not endure quite as harsh consequences.”

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