The BGC Boss, His Son’s Driving Career and the Ex-F1 OfficialsBy
Two F1 specialists say they were fired for whistleblowing
BGC says pair were dismissed for failing to raise money
Two executives who say they were hired by BGC Partners Inc. to raise sponsorship money to secure a place on the Formula-One grid for co-founder Shaun Lynn’s son sued the brokerage, claiming they were dismissed for blowing the whistle on corporate misconduct.
Lindsey De Souza and Nigel Burton, who had worked for the Lotus Racing team, sued in London’s employment tribunal for about 750,000 pounds ($970,000) each in lost earnings after saying they joined BGC in 2014 to find sponsors for Alex Lynn’s racing career. BGC rejects the claim, saying they were hired mainly to bring in funds for BGC, and were fired because of their poor performance.
De Souza said in a witness statement made public Thursday that BGC emails prove that company managers decided to fire the pair just five hours after they expressed concerns to compliance officers that two colleagues were making investment deals and trading while not registered with regulators. Their whistle-blowing allegations are unrelated to Shaun Lynn or efforts to raise funds for Alex Lynn’s career.
"I believe this is no coincidence and, on the balance of probabilities, clearly demonstrates that there was a direct causal link between us making the protected disclosures and our dismissal," De Souza said in the statement.
The case may also provide a window into the inner workings of Formula One, where it’s possible for aspiring racers with deep pockets and the right contacts to secure a place on the grid to compete against star drivers such as Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Lynn had spent 4.5 million pounds on his son’s racing career as of January 2016, according to de Souza’s witness statement, which cites company accounts of Alex Lynn Racing Ltd.
BGC said it removed the pair because they failed to deliver on the plan to bring in sales from the unit.
“We totally reject the claims and allegations being made in this case in particular that the claimants were dismissed for making any alleged protected disclosures,” BGC said in a statement. “The claimants failed to generate any revenue for BGC in more than 15 months.”
Lynn, 23, is a former GP3 champion, a current factory driver with BMW Motorsport -- where he competes in endurance events such as Le Mans -- and a reserve driver for DS Virgin Racing in Formula E, according to his website.
De Souza said in her statement that in early 2014, ex-BGC executive Nino Judge approached her and Burton to set up a B2B marketing business to be funded privately by Shaun Lynn aimed at raising money to secure Alex Lynn a seat on an F1 team. Judge was on a sabbatical from BGC and helped found the Lotus team where the pair were working, de Souza said. When Lynn went to BGC and Cantor Fitzgerald LP Chief Executive Officer Howard Lutnick to obtain clearance for the project, Lutnick suggested the unit be set up inside BGC’s trading division MINT as part of its diversification strategy, the statement said.
But Richard Barnett, head of the MINT unit, said while testifying Thursday that it was "not true" that the pair were recruited or that the B2B business was set up solely to further the racing career of Alex Lynn.
"Shaun mentioned to me that he was interested in trying to obtain sponsorship for his son Alex Lynn’s potential career in F1, which could be a by-product of BGC’s B2B business, but he was clear that the focus of the business under my leadership would be on generating money for BGC," Barnett said.
De Souza and Burton say that they were on the verge of securing at least two sponsorship deals by January 2016. Still, the B2B unit wasn’t making revenue and BGC management decided to fire the pair anyway, according to de Souza’s witness statement. The department and its fundraising efforts for Lynn’s racing career was shut down shortly after their exit in July 2016.
The pair say that their dismissal was a result of four disclosures of corporate misconduct. Aside from allegations that they warned compliance officers that two colleagues were making investment deals and trading while not registered with regulators, they said they repeatedly warned managers that their unit, which was unregulated, should have been kept separate from traders. Despite those warnings they worked on the trading floor, according to de Souza’s statement.
Barnett said in his witness statement that the decision to fire the pair was about money and nothing else.
"It is fair to say the BGC does not shy away from terminating the employment of employees who are not generating sufficient revenue," he said. "Throughout their employment, the deals that the claimants had arranged for BGC generated zero revenue. That remains the case as at the date of this statement."
Compensation for an unfair dismissal claim is capped at about 80,000 pounds. Winnings are only unlimited if claimants can prove they were victims of discrimination, or were fired for whistle-blowing.