Fired Trader Says Ex-Boss Posed as Her in Online Chatrooms

Updated on
  • Ekaterina Korshunova sues Eiger Securities over dismissal
  • Eiger says it fired Korshunova for ‘gross misconduct’ in 2014

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

A London trader who was fired after arguing with her boss when he used her online chat account to do deals while she was at lunch is suing her former employer.

Ekaterina Korshunova says she was unfairly dismissed by Eiger Securities LLP after she criticized her boss, managing director Richard Ashton, for using her computer to make trades in her name when she was out.

Korshunova had argued with Ashton when she repeatedly found him at her computer messaging traders in chat rooms and pretending to be her in 2014. Even after she told him traders were complaining about his actions and she changed her password, Ashton persisted. He even asked Eiger’s computer-support workers to unblock Korshunova’s screen when she changed her details.

Traders’ communications have come under scrutiny in recent years, with inappropriate chat groups and emails playing a key role in misconduct that has led to billions of dollars in fines for lenders. The behaviors have seen banks employ increasingly complex software to identify suspicious chats, which in turn has led to a rise in traders using encrypted messaging services such as WhatsApp and Signal to keep discussions out of sight from their employers.

The two parties were back in court on Wednesday for a retrial, after a 2015 ruling in Korshunova’s favor was overturned on appeal the following year.

Ruling Overturned

Judge Elizabeth Slade, who overturned the ruling in 2016, said it wasn’t clear whether it was illegal to share computer passwords within a company and whether the dispute over passwords was on Ashton’s mind when he fired her.

Eiger Securities cited “gross misconduct” when it fired Korshunova in 2014, saying she shouldn’t have changed her password to her Bloomberg terminal or switched off her computer screen after learning she was suspended. They also complained of her “failure to follow instructions and poor performance” after the disagreement.

Ashton said he had no further comment when reached by phone on Wednesday and Korshunova made no comment outside court.

The first ruling found it likely that Ashton had punished Korshunova for complaining and changing her password by giving away her clients to other brokers in the company.

Slade’s ruling overturning the original decision attracted a great deal of attention in the U.K. legal community, with lawyers saying it created a new hurdle for potential whistleblowers. A group of attorneys from Dentons called it the “case of the misused password.”

“The decision that the tribunal had not gone far enough to identify the legal obligation appears to place a greater obligation on claimants than was previously understood,” Michael Bronstein, a partner in Dentons London office, and four other lawyers wrote in a paper last year.

— With assistance by Suzi Ring

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