BGC Broker in Racism Case Says Joking in E-Mails Cut Stress

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A BGC Partners Inc. broker accused of sending racist e-mails said “inappropriate” messages are a typical part of life on London’s trading desks as under-pressure workers attempt to lighten the mood.

Boris Lefebvre, a manager accused of depicting former BGC broker Ramesh Kumaran as Apu from the cartoon “The Simpsons” in messages, said that Kumaran “participated in sending this type of e-mail to the desk” and reacted with “amusement and laughter.” Lefebvre made the comments in a witness statement submitted to a London employment tribunal.

“Inappropriate e-mails sent by the members of the desk, including Ramesh and I, were typical of those exchanged on most broking desks in the City,” he said in the statement. “Our working environment can be extremely pressured and stressful, and sometimes such joking between colleagues was effective in lightening the mood.”

The episode sheds light on life inside London’s competitive interdealer broker firms. BGC has been successful in previous employment tribunal disputes, winning a suit last year against a former employee who declined to participate in an initiation ritual requiring brokers to run across the trading floor while others threw water at them.

“As part of being a team we make fun of each other, it’s fun, there is no racial intent,” Lefebvre said at a tribunal hearing on Friday. “This is stupid, clumsy and politically insensitive but I deny that we are racists and we stick to that.”

Unfair Dismissal

Kumaran’s claims include unfair dismissal and racial discrimination, according to tribunal filings. BGC denies all the allegations and declined to comment further in the case when contacted by Bloomberg on Friday.

Kumaran, who worked for the brokerage for a decade, said he was made to work in a “humiliating environment,” according to his witness statement. His lawyers didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the hearing.

White employees were favored when allocating work on new products and clients, said Kumaran, who moved to BGC’s inflation desk in London from Switzerland in 2012.

Kumaran expected “clients to be handed to him without earning them,” Lefebvre said in his statement. “This always struck me as arrogant and lazy.”

(An earlier version of this story corrected the company name in the headline.)

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