Citigroup Trader Fired Over 5-Word Message Uses 2-Second Defense

  • David Madaras testifies on second day of employment lawsuit
  • Madaras says managers misread thread of message responses

A Citigroup Inc. currencies trader fired for sending a five-word message to a rival said his defense comes down to two seconds. 

David Madaras, who spent four years at Citigroup before he was fired in December 2014, appeared to "validate" a rival trader’s disclosure of a client name when he responded "he’s a seller/fking a," in an electronic chat, bank officials said in court filings. Madaras countered that his message was sent two seconds after the rival’s post and was actually in response to an earlier discussion.

"My comment was a continuation of my previous line of communication, prior to the name of the client being disclosed by the other trader, and not a response to it by me," Madaras said in a statement released as he testified Wednesday. “I had already dealt with the client prior to having the conversation with the external trader and I had expressed an interest to hedge the position to the other trader which is normal market practice."

Madaras is the fifth former Citigroup employee to sue the lender for wrongful dismissal in the aftermath of the market-manipulation scandal that cost banks about $10 billion in fines. At least three other banks were also sued by traders fired amid the fallout.

Like the traders who previously sued Citigroup, Madaras said he was made a scapegoat as the bank tried to appease regulators investigating foreign-exchange rigging. Conduct that had been previously encouraged, suddenly became a firing offense.

The disciplinary process was influenced by the desire of senior management "to demonstrate a change in the culture at the bank in light of the recent FX scandal and the corresponding investigation by the regulator in the U.K. and the USA," said Madaras. "I have been used as a scapegoat rather than being judged fairly in line with policy in precedent."

A Citigroup spokeswoman said the bank expects employees to adhere "to the highest ethical standards."

"Citi terminated employees who Citi found to have engaged in misconduct, including David Madaras," the spokeswoman said. “Individual accountability continues to be important to Citi and for that reason we are defending David Madaras’s case in the employment tribunal."

Madaras said he had a clean disciplinary record prior to the probe and he was cleared of misconduct in two of three chats investigated by the lender.

Winnings at London’s employment courts are capped at about 80,000 pounds ($104,000) unless claimants can prove they were victims of discrimination or were punished for disclosing corporate misconduct.

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