Citibank analyst fired after lying about extra coffee and doubled-up sandwich and pasta orders

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As most children grow up learning, it’s not necessarily the size of the transgression that does you in. It’s being found out, digging in, and lying about it.

And that’s even more the case if you’re an adult describing yourself as a financial-crime professional.

Szabolcs Fekete, a senior analyst in London, has lost a lawsuit alleging wrongful dismissal after he was fired by Citi
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for submitting an expenses claim that, though below the bank’s €100, or $105, daily limit, raised red flags for the heroic consumption of coffee, sandwiches and pasta on display.

In a ruling in the case, which was published on Oct. 13, a judge with the  East London employment tribunal said Fekete described his work as developing internal strategies, policies and risk-management frameworks to ensure compliance with laws and regulations. “From his evidence the claimant confirmed that he was a financial-crime professional,” the ruling said.

His dismissal in November 2022, seven years after joining Citi, came after management queried an expense claim for a three-day business trip to Amsterdam earlier that year because it appeared to reflect consumption by two people.

After his claim was rejected, Fekete wrote in an email to a senior manager that he “was on the business trip by myself and that I had 2 coffees as they were very small.”

When the senior asked to confirm that Fekete was claiming that he alone consumed two coffees, two sandwiches and another drink, Fekete replied: “Yes that is correct. … 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.”

Pressed further by management, Fekete emailed: “All my expenses are within the €100 daily allowance. Could you please outline what your concern is as I don’t think I have to justify my eating habits to this extent.”

After the dispute was sent to Citi’s ethics office and an internal investigator appointed, the tribunal found Fekete continued to deny that he had shared with his partner a meal of both a pesto pasta and a Bolognese.

In August 2022, Fekete admitted that his partner had consumed some of the food. Citi fired him for breaching the company’s expense-management policy and lying during an internal investigation.

Fekete said in his defense that he had recently lost a family member, had been on medical leave and under medication at the time he was responding to emails about the claim.

However, in the ruling the judge wrote that, “During cross examination, I find that the claimant did not answer questions in a direct manner.”

And in dismissing Fekete’s claim, the judge added: “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 [Citi] requires a commitment to honesty from its employees.”

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