A banker who carried out an ‘unsuitable’ trade which resulted in financial losses was unfairly dismissed by Credit Suisse because of delays in the investigation process, an employment tribunal has found.
Ms Volkova began working at Credit Suisse in 2017 after several financial services roles in London.
In March 2018 she was the subject of a compliance review in relation to two “reverse enquiry” trades – where a client approaches the bank with an idea about a specific trade and asks them to structure it according to terms they specify.
The review found that these trades had been solicited by Volkova and were therefore not reverse enquiries. It also made findings of poor record keeping and a failure to conduct client calls on recorded lines as required.
The company decided to investigate all trades carried out by the claimant between December 2017 and February 2018. Record-keeping deficiencies were identified in each of them, eight of the trades were in products not on the company’s UK approved platform and six were in products which were not on any of Credit Suisse’s platforms in or outside the UK. It also found that she had provided misinformation to the committee that approves trades.
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Volkova was placed under heightened supervision, which involved copying her supervisor into all client emails, attending all client meetings with a relationship manager, and being chaperoned by a Russian speaking colleague on phone calls.
In August 2018 the claimant was asked to work with a Russian-speaking ultra-high net worth individual, referred to as ‘client A’ at the employment tribunal.
An investigation found that Volkova traded an “unsuitable” and unstructured product for client A, but failed to ask permission from the compliance team at Credit Suisse. She also had conversations with client A on an unrecorded telephone line and with no chaperone present, which was in breach of the supervision programme
Credit Suisse reversed the trade which resulted in the loss of 22,000 Swiss Francs (£17,300). It said the trade had also risked reputational damage, had potentially exposed the client to loss, and could have exposed the company to a complaint or claim by the client.
In September 2018 Volkova lodged a grievance that made allegations relating to unsupportive management; unwelcoming, aggressive and bullying behaviour by individuals; inadequate provision of advice and mentoring; and poor provision of phone and IT facilities.
After a lengthy and delayed investigation process, the majority of the allegations against Volkova were upheld by Credit Suisse and she was dismissed for gross misconduct in January 2020.
At the employment tribunal, Volkova complained that she had been dismissed after whistleblowing about failings in training, support and supervision, and after making complaints about bullying and harassment against two members of staff.
The tribunal found that her compliant relating to training and supervision had amounted to a protected disclosure, but the bullying and harassment complaint did not. The dismissal did not relate to the protected disclosure, it found.
She also claimed that the company’s investigation into the August 2018 trade was unfair, incomplete and biased. One of the managers who had raised concerns about the trade was involved in the investigation, but the tribunal found it was natural that she would be involved in the process due to her compliance role. The tribunal was satisfied the investigation was fair.
However, it found that the process was “unjustifiably delayed” by the bank, although it had not done so deliberately. This meant the claimant’s dismissal from the organisation had to be considered unfair.
“We have concluded that the sole reason for the delay was a lack of efficiency on the part of the decision-maker. We are satisfied that the delay was neither deliberate, retaliatory, nor on the ground of the fact that the claimant had made a protected disclosure,” employment judge David Massarella says in the East London Hearing Centre’s decision.
Compensation will be discussed at a later hearing, but the judgment notes that it may be reduced due to Volkova’s conduct.
Credit Suisse declined to comment.