A banker named Szabolcs Fekete, who worked as a senior analyst at Citibank, was fired from his job due to trying to expense sandwiches and some coffees for his partner, and then proceeded to lie about it when he was confronted by his company: Citibank.
Mr. Fekete worked at the bank since 2015 and specialised in financial crime. The events revolved around a business trip he took to Amsterdam in which his partner joined him. He claimed that he had bought two pasta dishes, two sandwiches and two coffees on the trip which he expensed. He initially stated that he had eaten these by himself.
Later down the line, he admitted that he had shared his meals with his partner who had joined him in the trip. Before this in an email exchange with his manager, Fekete mentioned ‘I was on a business trip by myself and I had two coffees as they were very small.’
When the discrepancies were noticed, he was questioned further. In response, he said ‘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.’ The issue itself wasn’t necessarily about the lie however, but the fact that he may have breached the expenses policy which is the reason Citibank escalated this matter.
The policy that was breached specifically was that spousal travel and meals are not reimbursable. Whilst he did later admit to it, his reason was that he was suffering with personal issues before the trip, including the grieving of the death of his grandmother, and had been confused. Citi fired him on the grounds of gross misconduct and Mr Fekete responded by suing them for unfair dismissal.
Unfortunately for him, the tribunal was in favour of Citi and he lost.
The judge said ‘I have found that this case is not about the sums of money involved. This case is about the filing of the expense claim and the conduct of the claimant thereafter. 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.’
This case has now made headline news. In reality, nothing in this case is new. It is well established that an employer is entitled to be able to trust its employees and where that trust is breached, the employer is within its rights to act accordingly. It is perhaps a stark reminder however that a lie is a lie, irrespective of how big or little it may be.
It should also serve as a reminder to employees that where a mistake is made, a swift acknowledgement and apology would be better than an attempt at hiding your error.
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