Barclays Cartel Trader Told ‘Life Isn’t Fair’ Before Firing

  • Ashton says he was fired unfairly after whistleblowing
  • Trader shared confidential information with rivals, bank says

A Barclays Plc trader fired amid the foreign-exchange market manipulation scandal told a London court that a senior bank executive said “life isn’t fair” before firing him.

Justin Bull, the bank’s former chief operating officer, mocked Chris Ashton during his April 2015 disciplinary hearing, Ashton said in a witness statement made public Tuesday. During the hearing, Ashton said it was unfair to apply rules made in the wake of the scandal to his conduct in 2012.

“Justin leaned forward, spread his arms and said ‘Well, life isn’t fair,”’ Ashton said in his statement. "I found it not only unfair, but entirely unreasonable and deeply offensive."

Ashton sued, saying he was fired unfairly and made a scapegoat after he blew the whistle on improper conduct in electronic chat rooms in 2012, a year before news of the scandal broke. The bank says Ashton intentionally ignored its code of conduct by using offensive language and sharing confidential information.

The bank “does not comment on matters which are subject to on-going litigation except to confirm that we will be vigorously defending this case,” Barclays said in an e-mailed statement.

Cartel Group

Ashton is the most high-profile of more than half a dozen traders and sales people to sue their employers in recent months, claiming they were fired as banks rushed to appease regulators.

He was a member of "The Cartel" -- the name given to a now notorious chat room used by senior traders at banks including Barclays, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and UBS AG to share information and agree on ways to try to move currency benchmarks including the so-called 4 p.m. fix.

Ashton was promoted in October 2013, a year after he warned the bank about misconduct in electronic chat rooms and four months after news broke that banks were manipulating the rate fixing process, according to his witness statement.

That promotion enabled the bank to “pin the blame” for the scandal engulfing the bank, he said.

New Shield

Ashton said he was promoted so his bosses could create a "new role that shielded them and effectively hived off the voice spot FX team, creating a distinct group of traders that could be blamed for Barclays failings whilst protecting other areas from ’infection.’” His "promotion created an extra barrier between the voice spot FX team" and supervisors.

During his testimony July 13, Bull recounted showing Ashton transcripts of chats that included discussions about "using inside information" to make money, a joke about his best friend’s wife and references to participating in "The Cartel.” Ashton dismissed his comments as "silly" and "bravado,” Bull said.

It is the second time Bull testified at an employment lawsuit this month. He appeared in the neighboring courtroom July 6, where Ashton’s former deskmate Jack Murray was suing Barclays in his own lawsuit.

Ashton said he was "a loyal, long serving and "superstar" employee” who was punished by the bank.

In his statement, Ashton said he was “treated appallingly by Barclays. I was brave enough to put my head above the parapet to raise legitimate concerns about potential breaches of obligations and worked tirelessly to try to find solutions.”

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