Ex BNP Paribas worker sues bank following bullying allegations

A former BNP Paribas SA trader caught up in allegations of bullying sued the bank for unfair dismissal, saying he was pushed out after disclosing wrongdoing on the trading floor

Ex BNP Paribas worker sues bank following bullying allegations

A former BNP Paribas SA trader caught up in allegations of bullying sued the bank for unfair dismissal, saying he was pushed out after disclosing wrongdoing on the trading floor.

Xavier Dehais, who worked as a U.K. sovereign bond trader until last year, said the bank painted an unfair picture of him as someone with whom it was impossible to work. Dehais, who worked for BNP for almost eight years, said in a statement at a London Court Tuesday that he disclosed at least five instances of unauthorized trades and inflated books.

"In an effort to deflect from their own wrongdoing, they made specious allegations against me that I had harassed them and generally besmirched my character," Dehais told a London employment tribunal.

Bankers routinely turn to specialist labor courts throughout Europe to rehabilitate tarnished reputations and recoup lost bonuses. Dehais said that the bank had notified the U.K. financial watchdog following his dismissal, effectively ending his career.

"The employees involved in the various instances of whistle-blowing I made, who engaged in, and in likelihood are still engaging in, what I consider to be corporate malfeasance, are still employed," Dehais said.

BNP said in a statement that Dehais’ claims were investigated and “no misconduct was identified.”

“We have a robust whistle-blowing procedure which is also underlined in our code of conduct,” the Paris-based bank said.

The former trader is seeking 700,000 pounds ($933,000) in the lawsuit. Whistle-blowing claims are key parts of U.K. employment cases because they allow workers to sue for more than the standard 84,000-pound limit in unfair dismissal claims.

The main dispute centers on an incident with the European government bonds sales team. Dehais and a sales executive commenced rival grievance proceedings against each other, with Dehais saying that his rival manually inflated his credit on two deals by about 70,000 euros ($82,450). The executive, meanwhile, filed his own internal complaint, alleging bullying and harassment.

"His letter explained that he refused to come back to the bank as long as it meant having to work with me," Dehais said in his witness statement.

In an earlier exchange, Dehais told the sales executive "he was going to make my life a misery," according to emails read out in court.

Ceri Lawrence, the employee relations adviser who handled the grievance process, said the sales executive "broke down in tears" when describing his exchanges with Dehais.

"Xavier’s conduct towards him had resulted in him dreading attending work and had affected his sleep and his personal life," Lawrence told the court Wednesday.

Dehais said that he had seen “much worse” on the trading floor where people were “breaking keyboards and mice.”

“You have to take a lot of decisions very quickly with a lot of money. People are nervous,” he said. “Some schoolyard discussion has been transformed into bullying and harassment."

Sheila Aly, Dehais’ lawyer said the bank’s disciplinary procedure was "careless."

"The process was as fair as we could make it for him," Lawrence said.

‘Inappropriate Gesture’
The bust up with the sales executive wasn’t the first time Dehais’ conduct led to an investigation. He said that he had been previously cleared by the bank of making an inappropriate gesture in front of a female graduate employee.

BNP has faced a number of recent employment cases across Europe. Earlier this month, Paris employment courts required the bank to pay more than 350,000 euros to its former global head of FX arbitrage after the bank demoted him and 812,500 euros to the former head of structured finance in the bank’s Geneva office in a separate case.

"The treatment I have received throughout this matter only succeeds in proving that even in the current climate with demands for increased banking transparency and accountability, it is not safe to report any wrongdoing at BNP Paribas," Dehais said.

(A previous version of this story was corrected to fix the last name of a witness for the bank.)

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