The Royal Bank of Canada acted in a “totally unacceptable” way when it fired a whistleblower without due process on the pretext he was too often late for work, a U.K. tribunal judge has found.

The judge said RBC shut down a whistleblower complaint of a “box-ticking culture” at the bank's operations in London in which many employees were attesting that they had read RBC policies and practices to ensure financial regulatory compliance when they had not done so.

The judge characterized a global RBC manager’s invitation to whistleblowers to step forward as “fine but empty words.”

RBC said it "strongly disagrees" with the ruling by the U.K. employment tribunal and is considering an appeal of the case in which foreign exchange dealer John Banerjee seeks £13 million ($17 million) compensation for unfair dismissal.

Banerjee’s disclosure “was clearly in the public interest,” says the May 21 ruling by Judge James Tayler. Banerjee does “bear some responsibility” because he was often late for the 7 a.m. start time at work, but it was not the primary reason, he said.

The award amount was not announced with the ruling. But the judge said RBC’s “egregious” actions warrant an increase in the award of 25 per cent, the maximum allowed for failure to comply with the U.K.’s code of conduct for handling disciplinary and grievance situations in the workplace. He noted the bank had been castigated several years ago for “unfair and brutal” firing practices after abruptly dismissing a woman without notice or appeal rights.

No fair process

Judge Tayler said RBC dismissed Banerjee “without the slightest attempt to adopt a fair process in circumstances where they have been told by the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal that to do so is totally unacceptable.”

Hired in June 2015 in London, England, to build out the bank's business in emerging market currencies, Banerjee was a successful trader, making millions for the bank. He was dismissed in August 2016.

Royal Bank of Canada #whistleblower in U.K. unfairly dismissed, employment tribunal judge rules. @RBC in UK may appeal. #banking via @NatObserver

Banerjee claimed at the hearing that he had blown the whistle on a series of concerns, including a loosely worded code of conduct for traders, a laissez-faire attitude among his colleagues towards regulatory compliance and an alleged bribe by a senior manager to cover a trading loss caused by a Hong Kong colleague’s error.

The judge rejected the bribe allegation and said the public interest disclosure that “rang alarm bells” within RBC management was that of failure by bank employees to read and understand compliance policies.

“If bankers are not reading important policies and so may breach regulatory requirements, that is of the utmost public interest,” he wrote. “The public have the greatest interest in banks avoiding a further financial crisis in which the general public would suffer, as they did in the last.”

In an emailed statement to National Observer, a spokesman for RBC in the U.K. said the bank may appeal.

“We strongly disagree with the Tribunal’s decision and are considering an appeal. RBC takes its duties as an employer very seriously and encourages a robust compliance culture, which includes promoting the freedom for employees to speak up and blow the whistle," Adam Lister, associate director of corporate communications.

"RBC is reviewing the judgment carefully to see whether there are any practical steps it should take to make improvements to any employment processes. It would be inappropriate to comment further whilst the proceedings are ongoing.”

'Bit of a blowhard'

During Banerjee's time at RBC, staff were encouraged to speak up and report wrongdoing by Jonathan Hunter, the bank's global head of fixed income, currencies and commodities. He delivered a presentation at a company town hall meeting that told staff to "challenge the status quo," and that "don't ask don't tell will not be tolerated".

After this presentation, Banerjee wrote to Hunter, detailing his concerns about the risk of non-compliance if staff did not know procedures and rules. Hunter “disingenuously” thanked Banerjee, the judge said, while he had called him “a bit of blowhard” during a meeting with senior managers.

While a number of managers led him to believe his complaint was taken seriously, Banerjee’s manager was instructed to start documenting his late attendance and the bank "shut the complaint down," without telling him and fired him, Judge Tayler concluded.

"The Claimant did ‘tell’ the bank that staff were taking a couple of minutes to attest that they had read policies vital for regulatory compliance when they had not read them carefully, or at all; and did ‘ask’ the bank to investigate," he wrote.

"The bank's actions thereafter were the opposite of their fine, but empty words. Using his late arrival at work as a pretext, the bank sacked the Claimant. The main reason for his dismissal was his public interest disclosure."

Banerjee was assisted in his suit by WhistleblowersUK, a non-profit organization that provides support and information to whistleblowers.

Judge Tayler said employers should protect whistleblowers.

“Most people choose to stay silent when something is wrong, as they want a quiet life,” he said. “Those who blow the whistle must have remarkable and, at times, exhausting determination. Employers should take that into account when looking at whistle blowing complaints and ensure that they protect genuine whistleblowers, even if they find them somewhat enervating.”

This is the latest in a series of embarrassing headlines for RBC. Last week, the bank's asset management arm, Royal Mutual Funds Inc. (RMFI), was found to have broken strict rules on commissions. RMFI was fined $1.1 million by the Ontario Securities Commission for paying its representatives more for recommending its own mutual funds over those from other providers.

Earlier this month, the bank also fired Blair Fleming, head of U.S. investment banking, for violating the company's policies about relationships with fellow employees.

RBC also paid $15.5 million to settle a foreign exchange rigging lawsuit in the U.S. last year.

Whistleblowing movement is gaining strength

The tribunal's ruling comes as whistleblowing has gained prominence worldwide. Canadian whistleblower Christopher Wylie revealed earlier this year that Cambridge Analytica hijacked millions of Facebook users’ data. The data firm played a leading role in Donald Trump's election campaign and the 'Leave Campaign' in the U.K. referendum on exiting the European Union.

Once derided as traitors and snitches, whistleblowers are a growing force to be reckoned with. Last year, Canada passed a law - the Journalistic Source Protection Act aimed at increasing protection of journalists and whistleblowers from invasive search warrants and police spying.

France, Italy, Ireland and Holland have reformed protection schemes in recent years, and the European Union is developing plans for EU-wide protection. From Australia to Nigeria, governments are beefing up laws designed to protect those who speak up.

The International Bar Association recently published best practice guidance on whistleblower protections for regulators and organizations. Virginie Rozière, member of the European Parliament and author of a proposal for EU-wide protections for whistleblowers, shared her predictions in the foreword:

"Slowly but surely, the whistleblowing revolution is gaining momentum. 2018 may well be the year of the whistleblower."

Keep reading

I'll have something to say later about SNC-Lavalin Inc. and their predecessor company "The SNC Group" - about a cover-up of corruption at my personal expense, that they thought they would get away with "for ever". It ruined my entire life in Canada over the last 36 years and the chief culprit in this is their former President and C.E.O. Guy Saint-Pierre, O.C. It's all documented so anybody wanting a fight with ME over the facts will get one - and THEY WILL LOSE EVERY TIME. The corporate-controlled mainstream media have consistently refused to touch the story whenever I've approached them about it, or simply ignored it without ever giving any reason. Yet those same mainstream news media outlets have reported freely on the corruption, bribery and improper payments in Libya; to my mind, the PRIZE example of this was the $160 million bribe that SNC-Lavalin Inc. paid to Saadi Gadhafi in the name of helping the company get a contract to design and build a new prison in Libya for the defunct and disgraced political regime led by the late Col. Moammar Gadhafi. An article in the "Montreal Gazette" in April 2012 included a photo taken at the company's Montreal H.Q. on the occasion of the RCMP raiding the company's offices to recover documents connected with this bribe. There is clearly a problem with secretly-applied double standards being applied by the mainstream news media where they make a jolly good SHOW of being concerned to expose corruption - but as far as I'm concerned, they are doing it by freely reporting on some types of corruption in business while willfully ignoring others. This STINKS for all sorts of reasons, one of them being the general attitude in Canada towards people out of work, all based on popular disinformation, popular myths and popular social prejudices based on the said disinformation and myths. Meanwhile, people out of work such as myself are constantly treated to stupid little homilies around " careful what you say...", etc., stupid little lectures about how to be "politically correct" and how you will be blackballed from working if you "rock the boat" and all the rest of it. People who behave like that - of whom I've met FAR too many - are clearly only interested in "sucking up" to their own little office cliques and their little social cliques, and showing off to everybody how "tough", "strong", "righteous", "worldly-wise", "important" and "knowledgeable" they all think they are - all helped by their cronies in high places in business, government departments and the legal profession. I DON'T WANT TO MEET ANY MORE SUCH PEOPLE. Instead, I want to meet people who know how to apply satisfactory standards of professionalism to such matters - as opposed to willful and politically-motivated pettiness and stupidity "just because" "everybody else is doing it..", or some such. Anyone on the National Observer team willing to work with me on this? Robert T. Chisholm, Engineering Professional (Ontario), Associate Member of OSPE.

Oh - and here's a reference to what I was talking about concerning SNC-Lavalin Inc., Guy Saint-Pierre O.C. and "The SNC Group":-
The facts might be difficult for some people to believe but everything's documented. So there's a choice: like it or get used to it.

I forgot to mention one other thing about the "...people who behave like that..." whom I referred to above. They were all interested in APPEARING to be "POLITICALLY SAVVY" in ignoring what I had to say. What they were actually doing was being superficial and supercilious.

AND they were clearly all being money snobs. I wouldn't advise any attempt to argue with this proposition. I'm also talking to TV Ontario about exposing what went on; they have almost no resources with which to do the kind of investigation and fact checking which I know the National Observer and the traditional mainstream news media always do. In TV Ontario's case, to help them get around this difficulty, I have recommend to them to invite certain important guest speakers to appear in any TV show what TV Ontario might decide to do about this.

Is it really POSSIBLE that NOBODY is reading this article about the Royal Bank and whistleblowers? Or is it just a case of EVERYBODY dismissing Robert Chisholm's comments as just a "RANT" from a "LUNATIC" and not supported by any facts? I'm sorry, people, but everything's documented. What are we going to do about attitudes towards whistleblowers in Canada who report corporate wrongdoing?

I brought the above to the attention of Mike de Souza, who asked me whether I am a former employee of RBC. My answer to him was "no" - so some people might think I'm "...hijacking the agenda..." by raising my situation involving SNC-Lavalin Inc. here. But Mr. Banerjee's situation and mine have a common underlying factor: unethical / unprofessional conduct by top management at RBC. In my own case, that behaviour (back in 1991) involved RBC keeping Guy Saint-Pierre on as a Director of RBC after I had reported his allowing SNC's RBC bank account to be seized for non-payment of the court judgement in my wrongful dismissal suit, when at the same time SNC were raising a widely-reported $90 million to purchase the assets of the insolvent Lavalin Inc. while taking over Lavalin Inc.

So, based on what I just said, there were two distinct dimensions to the corruption that was directed at me personally: (1) that which Guy-Saint-Pierre and SNC directed at me personally, (2) RBC supporting that corruption by keeping Guy Saint-Pierre on as a Director when they knew full well what was going on. Later, a "swap" took place in which Guy Saint-Pierre became Chairman of the Board at RBC while RBC's own President and C.E.O. at the time, John E. Cleghorn, became Chairman of the Board at SNC. Cleghorn and his immediate predecessor at RBC, Allan R. Taylor, were the ones to whom I reported the behaviour of Guy Saint-Pierre and SNC.

Please see also:

From my perspective, Canada indeed DOES have a free speech crisis - in that, for instance, there is arbitrary and capricious suppression of information about certain forms of corruption in business (such as what happened to ME!). One of the big problem areas in Canada is a long-standing and generalised "poor-bashing" mentality in the population, as evidenced by Jean Swanson's 2001 book, "POOR-BASHING: the Politics of Exclusion". It's all based on long-standing irrational traditions, incompetence, emotion, myths, popular disinformation about people out of work, petty-minded office politics, snobbery based on money, poor-quality lawyers eager and desperate for money from their well-heeled and corrupt corporate clients, and wilful ignorance. Plus: people's universal pre-occupation with appearing to be "politically correct" in order to fall in with the mores of their little office cliques and their little social cliques.

The book has since been re-printed several times, the last instance being in September 2004. So it must have been considered important and relevant by significant numbers of Canadians.

I'm sorry if some people feel offended by what I've just said - but what's going on in Canada constitutes an endless insult to the intelligence of an imbecile, "never mind" anyone else. What are we going to do to change this seemingly endless and idiotic state of affairs?

Quote 1: "Whistleblowing movement is gaining strength"

Quote 2: "The tribunal's ruling comes as whistleblowing has gained prominence worldwide. Canadian whistleblower Christopher Wylie revealed earlier this year that Cambridge Analytica hijacked millions of Facebook users’ data. The data firm played a leading role in Donald Trump's election campaign and the 'Leave Campaign' in the U.K. referendum on exiting the European Union.

Once derided as traitors and snitches, whistleblowers are a growing force to be reckoned with."

I should bloody well hope that the "Whistleblowing movement is gaining strength" in Canada, but I see litle or no evidence of that happening where private sector business is involved. The exact opposite, in fact, partly on account of cutbacks in the mainstream news media that have been going on for years, aggravated of late by the closure of many local newspaper. To date, I have also seen no effort by anybody to investigate and expose what I’m saying about SNC-Lavalin Inc., or to expunge the corruption that they have been carrying on at my expense.

Currently I’m awaiting a reply from Mike De Souza about submitting my own article about this for publication in the National Observer. This should save time and effort for everyone involved.

This will probably be my final comment in response to the article about RBC and whistleblowers.

I'm making it simply to emphasise once more why it is important to expose my own situation and SNC-Lavalin Inc. - as if that was not obvious already, and assuming that people in general still doubt it.

The documents that I'm going to cite represent just a small sample of what I have in my database.

3305 - With death of megaprojects in Canada, SNC looks for work abroad – Peter Hadekel, Montreal Gazette, March 12th 1993 (project 26)

2697 – Transparency is Key to SNC-Lavalin’s Future - Simon Avery, Globe and Mail, Mar 26th 2012. (project 25)

2070 – SNC-Lavalin Must Now Regain the Trust of Shareholders – Michael Babad, Globe and Mail, Mar 27th 2012 (project 25)

1614 - SNC-Lavalin pledges tough ethical standards - Bertrand Marotte, Globe and Mail, Dec 13th 2012 (project 25)

2646 - SNC-Lavalin can be ‘true global leader’: Caisse de depot – Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press, Jan 30th 2013 (project 25)

822 - Cleaning up a culture of corruption -Anti-corruption expert Michael Hershman on the slow and painful process ahead for Quebec - Martin Patriquin, MacLean’s, July 3, 2013 (project 25)

2066 – SNC-Lavalin’s Ethics Focus is Encouraging, Baird Says – Frederic Tomesco, Bloomberg News, Sep. 15th 2013 (project 25)

2588 - Canada leads World Bank blacklist of fraudulent companies thanks to SNC-Lavalin - Ishmael N. Daro, Postmedia News, Sep. 17th 2013 (project 25)

2183 – SNC-Lavalin “Must Pay” for Alleged Corruption Actions – The Canadian Press, Sept 15th 2013 (project 25)

2706 – “Why whistleblowers are crucial for democracy: Linden MacIntyre” By Linden MacIntyre, CBC News Oct 31, 2013 (project 25)

2610 – How Canada Encourages Corrupt Companies – Patricia Adams and Brady Yauch, Financial Post, Nov. 4th 2013 (project 25)

3301 - Newspapers Irresponsible in Failing to Hold the Powerful to Account, says Pulitzer Prize winner
- Robert Sibley, Ottawa Citizen, Feb 3rd 2016 (project 26)

3036 – Couillard Urges Anglos to Return - Philip Authier, Ottawa Citizen, Aug. 14th 2017 (project 26)

3303 – Canadian Consulting Engineer – “SNC-Lavalin CEO named co-chair of anti corruption initiative” Jan 29, 2018 (project 25)

So - assuming people have actually been reading Mike De Souza's article and my previous comments in response to it - is it really possible that NOBODY but myself has anything to say about this?