Fired FX Trader Uses the `S' Word (Scapegoat) in Citigroup Case

  • Hoodless among 3 Citigroup traders suing for unfair dismissal
  • Citigroup stands by firing of bank clerk who rose to director

A fired Citigroup Inc. currency trader joined a growing list of former bank employees who claim their bosses made them scapegoats for market-manipulation scandals that led to billions of dollars in fines.

Robert Hoodless, 40, said while giving evidence to a London employment tribunal that he and the other traders on his desk shared information with rivals "to meet the expectation of our own managers."

I was "used as a scapegoat rather than being judged fairly and consistently with previous disciplinary sanctions," Hoodless said in written statement filed to the court. "The severity of my punishment has been influenced by the desire of senior management to demonstrate a change in culture at the bank" to regulators.

Banks have paid $10 billion in fines after investigations into foreign-exchange market manipulation. Panicked by regulatory probes, firms ignored employment law and were too quick to fire traders, according to three rulings published so far. That would usually mean sympathy and a big payday for the victims. So far, judges say, no one deserves it.

Felt Singled Out

Hoodless is the third former Citigroup currencies trader to sue the bank in recent months. Perry Stimpson, made a successful claim for unfair dismissal, but was denied substantial winnings. He said he sued the lender partly because he’d felt he’d been singled out and made a scapegoat, when his actions were common across the bank and the industry as a whole.

Another fired trader to cite the “s” word was Ian Drysdale, a former senior trader at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, who argued that he was penalized for the bank’s own failures in the currency-rigging scandal and that his firing was premeditated. He won part of an employment lawsuit but received no compensation because a London judge said he would have been fired anyway.

Citigroup says it fired Hoodless for disclosing information about the bank’s clients to a trader at another bank. That information included the identity of clients and quoted prices for potential trades.

"Confidentiality is central to the relationship between a bank and its client," Citigroup said in its court filings. "Dismissal was appropriate" in the circumstances.

Carly McWilliams, who was fired by Citigroup while on maternity leave, is awaiting the court’s decision in her London lawsuit.

Hoodless joined the bank as a stock reconciliation clerk straight after graduating from university in 1998. He was paid 9 pounds ($13) per hour. By 2008 he was a director with an annual salary of 200,000 pounds.

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