HSBC's WhatsApp trader was fired just before bonus day

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HSBC's WhatsApp trader was fired just before bonus day

It happened again. After Anthony Kontoleon was let go from Credit Suisse for sending clients messages through unapproved channels, Bloomberg reports that an HSBC FX trader has been let go too.

We understand he was fired from HSBC the week before bonuses were announced at the end of January and well before bonuses were paid in February. The investigation had seemingly being running for several months prior to that. 

Just as Kontoleon wasn't exchanging inappropriate messages with clients, but was fired simply for using inappropriate messaging channels according to the Financial Times , so the fired HSBC trader's problematic communications reportedly included an innocuous-sounding one-off categorized as, "a chat several years ago with a broker who had bought the banker tickets for a sporting event."

Messaging a client/friend about a sporting event on WhatsApp may not seem outlandish, and it's not clear why this particular trader was let go. The fact that his WhatsApps were seen by compliance suggests that he volunteered them himself to HSBC's compliance team. This may have been foolish: VTB banker Konstantin Vishnyak was acquitted of destroying evidence by a court in London in 2019 after simply deleting WhatsApp. However, Deutsche Bank has warned its staff that deleting Whatsapp messages may be a crime in the US. 

As we noted yesterday, the danger for anyone let go after using WhatsApp and other messaging systems is that they not only lose their job, their bonus for the current year and their deferred bonuses. Under UK regulations, bonuses for material risk-takers are subject to clawback provisions for seven years after they were granted. HSBC's compensation report says the clawbacks apply for seven years when individuals are guilty of "failing to meet appropriate standards and propriety."

In this case, therefore, not only did the unfortunate trader lose his bonus for 2021, he stands to lose what remains of deferrals going back to 2014 too. He will also find it difficult to get a new job with a potential regulatory black mark against his name. HSBC declined to comment.

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