Employment tribunal: City executive was unfairly dismissed after blowing the whistle on financial malpractice

An employment tribunal has ruled that a City executive who blew the whistle on financial malpractice was unfairly dismissed.

Ms Sinelnikova was working for the foreign exchange broker, ActivTrades, as the Head of Compliance, and was suspended for gross misconduct after attending a work trip while signed off sick.

In 2017, Sinelnikova was asked to open an account in the name of Alex Pusco, the founder and Chief Executive of ActivTrade, who asked her to keep the request confidential. She then informed her manager, Jon Friend, of the request, and was told that similar requests had been denied in the past.

Throughout the year, Sinelnivoka highlighted numerous other requests made by Pusco and Arthur Boissiere, the Head of Sales, of which she had legal concerns over compliance with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulations.

Following this, both Pusco and Boissiere alleged that Ms Sinelnikova was exerting ‘unfair power over her colleagues’, an accusation that the tribunal found was an attempt to damage her credibility.

Following a meeting in which Sinelnikova was blamed for delayed in the rollout of data security compliance protocol and delays in processing new clients, she was admitted to hospital after suffering from chest pains, abdominal pains and a suspected panic attack.

She was then signed off sick by her GP with stress and anxiety. While off sick, Jon Friend asked her to attend a business trip to Dubai, which she did so after consulting a specialist, but remained signed off.

However, the firm’s Head of HR, Stuart Gee, conducted a “covert disciplinary investigation” after suspicions that Friend and Sinelnikova were in a relationship. This involved contacting her GP and checking her emails.

In December 2017, Sinelnikova found that she could no longer access personal emails, or make compliance decisions and that a new employee had been given access to the compliance records.

As no individual should have access to this information without undertaking the relevant checks and authorisations, Sinelnikova believed that ActivTrades was likely to breach their legal obligations to the FCA. She subsequently lodged a grievance, blowing the whistle about concerns of financial malpractice.

The tribunal stated that all claims made by ActivTrades against Sinelnikova were “unfounded”, and that Sinelnikova had been victimised and unfairly dismissed.

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Joanna Alexiou

Joanna Alexiou

Associate Solicitor at Mackrell.Solicitors
Joanna joined the firm’s Employment Law team in February 2020 having previously worked at another prominent firm of solicitors in the heart of London. Joanna has worked with clients from the finance, technology, arts and culture, marketing, charity and food and drink sectors.