UBS rogue trader's supervisor sues for unfair dismissal, claiming racism

Former managing director alleges UBS discriminated against him because of race; bank says he failed to monitor risky trades

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2012, 5:14am

Ronald Greenidge, a former UBS AG managing director fired for gross misconduct in his supervision of convicted trader Kweku Adoboli, was suing the bank, claiming it treated him more harshly than others because he is black.

Greenidge, who was UBS's head of European cash trading, alleged race discrimination and unfair dismissal in a lawsuit filed in June at a London employment tribunal, according to newly obtained documents.

"There are stark discrepancies" between UBS's treatment of Greenidge and other people connected to Adoboli, according to the complaint. Greenidge "is of black Caribbean origin. Mr Adoboli is of black African origin. The claimant believes he has been treated less favourably than his" white counterparts.

Adoboli, originally from Ghana, was sentenced to seven years in prison on November 20 for fraud tied to a US$2.3 billion loss, the largest from unauthorised trading in UK history. The bank was later fined £29.7 million (HK$369 million) by a UK regulator for weaknesses in management systems and internal controls that allowed Adoboli to make risky trades.

At least 11 employees left Zurich-based UBS, either through firings or resignations, after Adoboli revealed the massive losses in an e-mail in September last year. They included former CEO Oswald Gruebel and Adoboli's co-workers on the exchange-traded funds desk - John Hughes, Simon Taylor and Christophe Bertrand.

The lawsuit was one of several against the bank for unfair dismissal because of the loss, at least one of which has settled. UBS spokesman Oliver Gadney declined to comment.

Greenidge, who was born in Britain, worked at the bank for almost two decades and made £286,000 (HK$3.5 million) a year, including his bonus, according to the complaint. His nickname, used by the ETF traders, was Mace Windu, after the Star Wars character played by Samuel L Jackson, according to his testimony at Adoboli's trial.

Greenidge said in his complaint the bank fired him based on "weak and unsubstantiated allegations" in a process "tainted with a sense of pre-determination." The ex-manager said he was given two days to prepare for an internal disciplinary hearing in October last year, while UBS had six weeks to ready itself.

The bank denied the allegations and said in tribunal papers that Greenidge "did not take his supervisory responsibilities as seriously as he should have."

Greenidge's lawyer, Tim Spillane of Stewarts Law LLP, declined to comment on the case because it is "subject to ongoing legal proceedings."

Adoboli's lawyer, Charles Sherrard, said Greenidge was like "a father figure" to the ETF traders - a description Greenidge rejected in court.