By Lawrence White and Jonathan Stempel
LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Barclays allegedly pressured a former senior trader in the United States to ignore internal risk controls and then forced him out when he raised complaints, according to a public court document seen by Reuters, the latest in a string of allegations about the British bank’s handling of whistleblowers.
Brian La Belle, the bank’s former head of commercial real estate trading, alleged his bosses compelled him to perform trades and contact clients in August and December 2017 while he was on mandatory leave, contrary to regulations.
He also alleges in the court filing that managers called him to complain that he had raised concerns in emails about being made to work during ‘block leave’, a period of absence required by regulators to ensure bosses can detect rogue trading and other potential misconduct.
When La Belle raised concerns with compliance officials at the bank he was first sidelined before he was sacked in Aug. 2018, he alleged in New York district court filing dated April 29.
A spokeswoman for Barclays declined to comment, citing a policy of not commenting on ongoing legal proceedings.
La Belle’s alleged ousting came at a time when the bank’s handling of whistleblowers was under intense scrutiny after its Chief Executive Jes Staley was in May 2018 fined by British regulators for attempting to unmask one in contravention of rules designed to protect them.
The 1.1 million pound fine ordered by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority was the first such punishment imposed on a sitting CEO of a major British bank. It cast a pall over Staley’s efforts to show the bank has improved its culture since the 2008 crisis.
Barclays launched a review of its whistleblowing procedures in 2017, and in its 2018 annual report published in February this year it said it had implemented recommendations from the review including creating a centralised team to review all complaints.
After La Belle complained internally about being asked to complete trades while he was supposed to be on leave, he said that Larry Kravetz, one of his managers, asked him on a phone call: “How could you be so fucking stupid to put that in an email.”
Kravetz could not immediately be reached for comment.
La Belle said he raised further complaints about separate deals that he said were too risky but were pushed through nonetheless, before the bank ultimately fired him. He is seeking reinstatement and over $10 million in compensation.
The case continues in New York on Tuesday.
(Reporting By Lawrence White in London and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Keith Weir)