Commerzbank sued by former director over allegations of “boys club” environment within FX hedge fund division


Jenus Fiouzi, a senior saleswoman and director within the FX hedge fund division of COMMERZBANK AG (FRA:CBK) based in London, has filed a lawsuit against the German bank for discrimination, stating that the environment within the workplace bore similarities to a “boys club” which caused her to be isolated by discussions held in German, or at bars.

Ms. Fiouzi provided a witnes sstatement, alleging that Commerzbank had a “friends and mates culture” where there was “a well entrenched guard of men” according to a report by Bloomberg.

“On and off the trading floor, there was a German ‘boys club’ culture at the bank, which I would describe as akin to a college fraternity or ‘frat club,’” she said in the document submitted to a London employment tribunal which took place yesterday.

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Responding to these claims, Commerzbank stated that Ms. Fiouzi was not discriminated against and was fired because she was disruptive and failed to meet her targets.

“Her descriptions of working life at Commerzbank’s London office bear little relationship to reality,” the Frankfurt-based lender said in a statement.

According to the report by Bloomberg, damages in employment cases are normally capped at about 70,000 pounds ($109,000), unless there is evidence of discrimination based on race, religion or gender.

Ms. Fiouzi, who was fired in 2014 after about a year at the bank, said her team left her out of discussions by holding conversations in German, a language which she does not speak, or at “drinking sessions.”

Failure to meet targets

As far as professional conduct is concerned, salespeople within large financial institutions whose positions focus on the generation of revenue from institutional clients which invest in FX hedge funds are required to perform and drive income, above all else.

Ms. Fiouzi was given a target of generating 1 million Euros for 2013, which was adjusted on a pro-rata basis, taking into account her start date. She was expected to onboard five new clients during the year in addition to the revenue-based target.

Commerzbank stated that throughout 2013, with the exception of the head of that particular department, the entire team failed to make their targets.

Ms. Fiouzi held the position of Director of FX and Rates Institutional Sales at Commerzbank, joining the firm in April 2013 from Credit Agricole, where she held the same position.

Prior to joining Credit Agricole in 2010, Ms. Fiouzi was Vice President of FX & Commodity Institutional Sales & Product Development at JPMorgan Chase for eight years between September 2001 and July 2010.

Simon Gorton, a lawyer representing Commerzbank, stated at the employment tribunal yesterday that Ms. Fiouzi “went behind a colleagues back to speak to clients.”

“Such was the level of poor relations between the two of you that you both indulged in rather childish behavior,” Mr. Gorton said.

Ms. Fiouzi claims that in e-mails the vice-president would only ever refer to her as “she” while calling male colleagues by their names, she said in her witness statement, further adding that there were no senior female managers in sales.

“The expectation was that I should suck up to” the vice-president, Ms. Fiouzi said. “He was a German man, in a German bank. He had the backing of all the senior management in Frankfurt.”

The tribunal continues.

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Commerzbank sued by former director over allegations of "boys club" environment within FX hedge fund division

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