Citigroup Trader Fired Over Currency Probe Sues in Singapore

  • Bank claims trader involved in attempt to rig dollar/yen
  • Trader fired the day after she returned from maternity leave

A former Citigroup Inc. trader fired over claims she and a colleague colluded to rig the currency market sued the bank in Singapore for wrongful dismissal.

Tian Yuhui, fired the day she returned to work after a four-month maternity leave, is suing for loss of income, deferred stocks and cash awards and for her job to be reinstated, according to a lawsuit filed in August at the Singapore High Court. She’s also asking Citicorp Investment Bank (Singapore) Ltd., the bank’s local unit, to rescind “adverse notifications” sent to regulators.

Citigroup was entitled to terminate the currency spot options trader in May, the bank said in its defense filed with the court in October. The bank in a 2014 internal probe uncovered five chats from 2011 to 2013 with a Japanese colleague, according to court papers. The bank claims the chats revealed her “intention to trade with a view to affect or manipulate” the U.S. dollar-Japanese yen spot price around the time of the 3 p.m. Tokyo fix, a key currency market benchmark.

The dollar-yen is a major currency pair in the $5.3 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market.

“She’s been unfairly dismissed without notice,” Tian’s lawyer Wong Siew Hong said. “She was very surprised to come back from maternity leave and be summarily dismissed.” Citigroup spokesman James Griffiths said the bank will defend its position. A closed hearing is scheduled for Dec. 17.

Banks have paid out more than $10 billion in fines as a result of a scandal involving alleged currency rigging, with criminal investigations in the U.S. and the U.K. still pending. At least 30 traders at a number of banks have been fired, suspended or put on leave in the last two years, since the scandal broke.

“You are the best,” Tian told her Japanese colleague in a chat, after he told her he placed a “fake bid” to defend the dollar-yen spot rate at 84.01, according to court papers. Tian also told her colleague to “push the fix,” according to transcripts of the chats reproduced in court papers. The Japanese trader has also been fired, according to court papers.

Tian said her choice of words may not have been appropriate and may have given the wrong impression about her intentions, according to court papers. She added that she didn’t tell the Japanese trader to place a fake bid, and that the chats reflected a “common practice” of entering a bid order, and later withdrawing it.

Her bids were “too small” to manipulate the $978 billion dollar-yen spot market, Tian said in court papers. The trader, who was last paid S$18,900 ($13,500) a month, said she felt her duty was to make money for Citigroup, according to court papers.

The case is Tian Yuhui v Citicorp Investment Bank (Singapore) Ltd. S877/2015. Singapore High Court.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.