Citibank wins case after sacking banker over two-sandwich lunch claim

In a recent legal victory that has sent shockwaves through the UK financial sector, Citibank emerged triumphant after a protracted court battle involving the dismissal of a banker over a seemingly trivial matter—a two-sandwich lunch claim. The case, which has captured widespread attention, raises questions about corporate ethics, employee conduct, and the boundaries of employer-employee relationships in the modern workplace.

The story began when John Anderson, a former Citibank employee, filed a lawsuit against the multinational banking corporation after being terminated from his position. Anderson alleged that he was wrongfully dismissed after submitting an expense claim for two sandwiches he had purchased during a business lunch meeting. The bank, however, contended that Anderson had violated its expense policy, which strictly prohibits extravagant or unnecessary expenditures.

Mr. Fekete, a dedicated analyst specializing in financial crime, had faithfully served Citibank for seven years when he embarked on a work-related trip to Amsterdam from 3 to 5 July last year.

Upon his return to London, Mr. Fekete submitted an expense claim for food and drinks, confident that his expenditures fell within the bank’s daily allowance of €100 (£86.70). However, his claim was met with scrutiny from the manager responsible for processing expenses, who raised questions about whether Mr. Fekete had indeed consumed all the food and refreshments for which he was seeking reimbursement. Mr. Fekete wrote in his email-“ I was on the business trip by myself and… I had 2 coffees as they were very small.” He said- “On that day I skipped breakfast and only had 1 coffee in the morning. For lunch, I had 1 sandwich with a drink and 1 coffee in the restaurant, and took another coffee back to the office with me and had the second sandwich in the afternoon… which also served as my dinner.” He also added- “All my expenses are within the €100 daily allowance. Could you please outline what your concern is I don’t think I have to justify my eating habits to this extent.”

The bank’s contention was not solely about the amount Mr. Fekete had claimed but rather whether his expense request violated Citibank’s expense management policy. This policy explicitly stated that expenses related to spousal travel and meals were not reimbursable. Additionally, the policy mandated that all attendees, whose meals were submitted for reimbursement, must be accurately listed in the claims.

Despite Mr. Fekete’s explanations, the judge ruled in favor of Citibank, highlighting the importance of adherence to company policies and the accurate representation of expenses. The judgment emphasized that employers have the right to expect employees to uphold company policies, regardless of personal circumstances. This decision serves as a reminder to employees about the significance of compliance with workplace policies, even in challenging personal times.

Citibank welcomed the judgment, reaffirming its commitment to upholding its policies and ensuring accountability within its workforce. The case stands as a precedent, underscoring the responsibility of employees to maintain transparency and adhere to company guidelines, which are essential in fostering a professional and trustworthy workplace environment.

On this, the Judge said- have found that this case is not about the sums of money involved. This case is about the filing of the expense claim and the conduct of the claimant thereafter.

“It is significant that the claimant did not make a full and frank disclosure at the first opportunity and that he did not answer questions directly.” “The claimant was employed in a position of trust in a global financial institution. “I am satisfied that even if the expense claim had been filed under a misunderstanding, there was an obligation upon the claimant to own up and rectify the position at the first opportunity. I accept that the respondent requires a commitment to honesty from its employees.”

Published by HOLR Magazine.