Two traders are suing ANZ Banking Group after they were sacked for inappropriate behaviour, claiming senior management of the bank condoned a culture of sex, drugs and alcohol.
Etienne Alexiou, one of the traders suing the bank for $30 million, has told the court he raised concerns about the conduct of the bank with investors and clients on three separate occasions.
He was fired for “breaching the bank’s code of conduct” despite being initially stood down for being involved in a regulatory investigation.
The other trader, Patrick O’Connor, is suing the bank after he was fired for running up $37,000 of expenses including his rent, healthcare payments, an $18,000 purchase of rare coins and several charges at hotels in Sydney and Hong Kong.
He too claims ANZ “created, supported and encouraged” the “toxic and unsafe culture”.
The Australian Financial Review reports the men are separately suing the bank in the Federal Court for tens of millions of dollars of damages, lost bonuses and income after they were dismissed for inappropriate or offensive electronic communication and, in O’Connor’s case, the abuse of a company-issued credit card.
ANZ says it stands by the decision to sack the men and it would “be vigorously defending both their court applications”.
“Mr O’Connor and Mr Alexiou’s claims are difficult to read for all of us at ANZ but common sense says their behaviours are not consistent with our code of conduct and cannot be tolerated,” ANZ’s chief risk officer, Nigel Williams, said.
In November 2014 the bank was also at the centre of one of Australia’s biggest regulatory investigations.
As part of the investigation the bank marched seven traders, including Alexiou, from the dealing floor and placed them on suspension. Later that day, it released a statement to the media confirming the suspension of seven unnamed traders around BBSW. See more of that here.
He was stood down in February 2014 as part of that investigation another senior trader allegedly told him “someone that had to be made out to be a big white dildo”. Just one example of the rampant profanities and derogatory comments apparantly used on the trading floor.
Here’s part of the statement the bank issued today.
“Appropriate conduct, compliance with ANZ policies and respect for others is paramount at ANZ. Where there is evidence that someone has not acted in a way that is consistent with our Code of Conduct and policies, we will take appropriate disciplinary action. This includes formal warnings, dismissal and, where relevant for more senior staff, bonuses being clawed back.
“Mr O’Connor and Mr Alexiou have also made allegations about some existing and former staff at ANZ. We are committed to investigating all cases that are bought to our attention either through our own management and monitoring or those raised by current or former staff.
“In relation to the applications filed with the Federal Court, all matters raised have either been investigated or are under current investigation. We have already identified that many of the allegations made in both claims are not accurate and these inaccuracies will become apparent as the matters proceed through the court system.
“We have more than 1,000 staff in our Global Markets business in total who are working responsibly in line with our values and our Code of Conduct. These staff members work hard for our customers and they are highly valued contributors.
“We understand that these claims come at a time where there is community concern about behaviours in some financial markets businesses around the world. For ANZ, this also includes an investigation by ASIC into the Australian Bank Bill Swap Rate market.
“Regulatory compliance is not negotiable at ANZ. We have been working hard to ensure we have the right culture at the bank.”
The AFR has more.
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