Ex-Barclays ‘Cartel’ Trader Ashton Sues for Unfair Dismissal

  • Chris Ashton also suing bank under whistle-blowing rules
  • Ashton left bank during FX manipulation probe in 2013

A former Barclays Plc currency trader who was part of the “Cartel” chat room sued the bank for unfair dismissal and whistle-blowing after he was suspended amid a probe into potential foreign-exchange manipulation.

A preliminary hearing in Chris Ashton’s case is scheduled at a London employment tribunal on July 13, according to court records. Ashton declined to comment when reached by phone and his lawyer didn’t respond to a call and text message.

The former co-chief foreign currency dealer in London joins a long list of currency traders to sue their former employers after banks, embroiled in the foreign-exchange market rigging scandal, made widespread firings in the wake of $10 billion in fines.

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

Traders have met mixed results at the tribunal. Some have won claims of unfair dismissal, but failed to get support for their allegations that they were penalized for reporting improper conduct, which would have allowed them to seek recoveries beyond an approximate 80,000-pound ($108,000) cap.

Additional Case

Another former Barclays currency trader, Jack Murray, has a hearing on his allegation that he was unfairly dismissed scheduled for the same day as Ashton.

The foreign-exchange scandal was one of several involving the rigging of key benchmarks that emerged following the financial crisis. Authorities in the U.S., the U.K. and Switzerland issued about $10 billion in penalties to a group of banks including Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Barclays for their role in FX manipulation.

In a settlement last year, the U.S. Department of Justice said traders from several banks used online chat rooms with names like “The Cartel” to discuss positions before the rates were set and suppress competition in the market.

Identity Crisis

Ashton has turned to the U.K. courts before in a bid to protect his reputation. He lost a complaint over whether he had been improperly identified in regulatory settlements related to the foreign-exchange scandal in January.

Ashton claimed media coverage of the “Cartel” chat room made it easy to work out his name in the Financial Conduct Authority’s settlement documents, even though they were anonymized.

Ashton’s case was the first time the the regulator won on the identity issue having lost a number of high-profile applications in 2015.

The FCA is obliged to give people the chance to respond to allegations before publication if they’re identifiable. To avoid this, the agency often uses monikers such as "Trader A" to disguise the individuals.

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