Forex trader sues Citi for wrongful dismissal

A former Citigroup trader fired over claims that she and a colleague colluded to rig the currency market has sued the bank in Singapore for wrongful dismissal.

Ms Tian Yuhui, fired the day she returned to work after a four-month maternity leave, is suing for loss of income, deferred stocks and cash awards and for her job to be reinstated, according to a lawsuit filed in August at the Singapore High Court. She is also asking Citicorp Investment Bank (Singapore), the bank's local unit, to rescind "adverse notifications" sent to regulators.

Citigroup was entitled to terminate the currency spot options trader in May, the bank said in its defence filed in October. The bank in an internal probe last year uncovered five chats from 2011 to 2013 between Ms Tian and a Japanese colleague, according to court papers.

The bank claims the chats revealed her "intention to trade with a view to affect or manipulate" the US dollar-Japanese yen spot price around the time of the 3pm Tokyo fix, a key currency market benchmark. The dollar-yen is a major currency pair in the US$5.3 trillion- a-day (S$7.6 trillion-a-day) foreign exchange market.

Ms Tian's lawyer Wong Siew Hong said: "She's been unfairly dismissed without notice."

A closed hearing is set for Dec 17. Banks have paid out more than US$10 billion in fines as a result of a scandal involving alleged currency rigging, with criminal investigations in the US and Britain still pending. At least 30 traders at various banks have been fired, suspended or put on leave in the last two years, since the scandal broke.

"You are the best," Ms Tian told her Japanese colleague in a chat, after he told her he placed a "fake bid" to defend the dollar-yen spot rate at 84.01, according to court papers.

Ms Tian also told him to "push the fix", according to transcripts. The Japanese trader has also been fired, according to court papers.

Ms Tian said her choice of words may not have been appropriate and may have given the wrong impression about her intentions.

She said she did not 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.

The trader, who was last paid S$18,900 a month, said she felt her duty was to make money for Citigroup, according to court papers.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2015, with the headline 'Forex trader sues Citi for wrongful dismissal'. Print Edition | Subscribe