Exclusive: ActivTrades hit with £76K judgement for unfair dismissal of CO
FNG Exclusive… FNG has learned that London-based retail FX and CFDs broker ActivTrades has lost a UK employment tribunal hearing regarding the dismissal of the company’s former Compliance Officer, Lana Sinelnikova.
Lana Sinelnikova was fired by ActivTrades in 2018. She is now Compliance Director of TradeTech Alpha (the financials arm of Playtech).
While the tribunal ruled mainly in Ms. Sinelnikova’s favor on the main parts of her claims of being unfairly dismissed by ActivTrades, the tribunal did not uphold her claims of direct sex discrimination.
In total, Ms. Sinelnikova was awarded £76,510.16, the bulk of which was for “injury to feelings”. The total award breaks down as follows:
- Award for unfair dismissal – Basic award: £2,934
- Compensatory award: £5,421.05
- Statutory uplift on the compensatory award 25%: £1,355.26.
- Injury to feelings (including aggravated damages): £40,000
- Statutory uplift of 20%: £8,000
- General damages for personal injury: £7,500
- Statutory uplift of 20%: £1,500
- Interest to 22 May 2020: £9,799.85
ActivTrades was ordered to also pay £5,000 to the tribunal, and to reimburse Ms. Sinelnikova for 65% of her legal costs.
The company had claimed that Ms. Sinelnikova was removed her position as Head of Compliance for what it called “gross misconduct”, for taking a work trip to Dubai with a senior colleague with whom she was in a relationship with, at a time when she was off from work taking sick leave. However the tribunal panel concluded that ActivTrades had been trying to force her out and used the trip as ‘leverage’ to fire her. The tribunal found that she had committed no breach of contract or misconduct by travelling and working for at least part of the time in Dubai.
ActivTrades also told the tribunal that the company believed she obstructed deals by flagging potential legal concerns.
Ms. Sinelnikova told the tribunal that when she complained about her treatment, the company embarked on a campaign of concerted and malicious action against her. This included company operatives giving false information about her to the regulator (FCA), wrongly claiming she had committed a criminal offence and threatening to take her to the court.
The company also accused her of improperly using her work computer to run an eBay trading account. The company also refused to give back her personal data, including details about her divorce.
The tribunal found the firm guilty of victimizing Ms. Sinelnikova after she accused them of sex discrimination and blew the whistle on what she believed were potentially criminal practices at the firm.
Back in late 2017, Ms. Sinelnikova issued a grievance against the company also sent to the FCA, accusing ActivTrades of sex discrimination and potential criminal offences relating to their compliance with financial conduct laws.
In her complaint, she recalled an incident at the firm’s Sofia, Bulgaria office when “[CEO Alex] Pusco stated that ‘women should stay at home and cook’, in the context of complaining about the length of maternity leave in Bulgaria.”
She also claimed that in 2017, Mr. Pusco displayed an image of an advertisement by Aston Martin for used cars. The ad contained a picture of a woman wearing limited clothing in a particular pose. On showing this advert to Ms. Sinelnikova and others at the company’s London office, Mr. Pusco stated that marketing needed to be “sexy” and that “sex sells”.
The tribunal found the ad to be ‘insulting, offensive, and degrading to women’. But again, it stopped short of supporting Ms. Sinelnikova claim for direct sex discrimination.
The full tribunal decision on Ms Svetlana Sinelnikova v ActivTrades can be seen on the UK government’s employment tribunal decisions website here.