HSBC Trader Fired Over E-Mail Sought $2.6 Million, Gets $63,400

  • Lazimy sent himself 1,400-page spreadsheet with client info
  • Yahoo mail message included banks’ 2010 equities transactions

A fired HSBC Holdings Plc equity derivatives trader who sued the bank for $2.6 million was awarded just 56,300 euros ($63,400) in a French lawsuit over his dismissal for sending client data to his personal Yahoo! Inc. e-mail address.

The Paris employment tribunal ordered HSBC to pay Ben Lazimy the compensation after he was fired for sending a 1,400-page spreadsheet with all of HSBC’s equities transactions in 2010, a list that included client names and margins. A court official gave the ruling by phone and the court’s full opinion won’t be available for weeks.

Banks are under growing pressure to secure their data after high-profile cyber attacks against JPMorgan Chase & Co. and HSBC led to the loss of millions of customer records. One of the most severe risks for a data breach comes from employees, who might unwittingly upload a virus or be blackmailed into helping an attacker.

HSBC is particularly sensitive about the issue after former employee Herve Falciani said he took client data to prove that its Geneva private banking unit was helping foreign clients evade taxes. The case generated global headlines after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published a report known as the Swiss Leaks based on Falciani’s data.

‘Moral Harassment’

Lazimy’s lawyer, Jamila El Berry, said her client will appeal the decision, while HSBC said it is awaiting the notification of the ruling before taking a decision.

El Berry said she is “surprised that the arguments on the moral harassment were dismissed as they were serious and well founded.” She also said the level of compensation -- the vast majority of which was awarded by the Paris court to make up for unpaid overtime work -- is insufficient.

El Berry said at an April hearing that the e-mail incident was an excuse to fire Lazimy, which added to the harassment he suffered after refusing to transfer from Paris to London amid a bank restructuring. Lazimy went from being praised by management and rising to the position of director to getting negative evaluations, a salary freeze, no bonuses and a reduction to his responsibilities, she told the tribunal.

Lazimy’s lawyer said that her client didn’t breach professional secrecy as the document never got into any outsider’s hands. The spreadsheet was widely available within the bank -- even to interns -- and a police report found the attachment “was damaged and unusable,” she said, adding that prosecutors dismissed HSBC’s criminal complaint.

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