Former Citigroup Inc trader Tian Yuhui was fired on the day that she returned to work from her maternity leave. But the reason is a lot more complex than it seems.
She and a colleague were caught colluding to rig the currency market, but the Chinese national has tried to make the issue about her wrongful dismissal. In August, Tian sued for loss of income, deferred stocks and cash awards and demanded that her job be reinstated. She’s also asking Citicorp Investment Bank (Singapore) Ltd., the bank’s local unit, to rescind “adverse notifications” sent to regulators.
In October, Citigroup submitted its defense stating that Tian’s misdeeds were discovered during an internal probe, which uncovered chats dated from 2011 to 2013 with a Japanese colleague. The bank claims the chats revealed her “intention to trade with a view to affect or manipulate” the U.S. dollar-Japanese yen spot price around the time of the 3 p.m. Tokyo fix, a key currency market benchmark.
The dollar-yen is a major currency pair in the $5.3 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market.
“You are the best,” Tian wrote to her Japanese colleague in a chat. This was after he told her he placed a “fake bid” to defend the dollar-yen spot rate at 84.01. Tian also told her colleague to “push the fix,” according to transcripts of the chats reproduced in court papers. The Japanese trader has also been fired, said the bank.
Tian claimms that she didn’t tell the Japanese trader to place a fake bid, and that the chats reflected a “common practice” of entering a bid order, and later withdrawing it.
A closed hearing for the case is scheduled for Dec. 17.
Several banks have been made to pay $10 billion in fines as a scandal involving currency rigging was opened in the US and the UK, with investigations and charges still pending in those countries. At least 30 traders at a few banks have been fired or suspended since the scandall broke.