bnp pic

And the B stands for banter.


BNP Paribas' head of legal for Equity Capital Markets called an Asian colleague a "Cheeky Chink", RollOnFriday can reveal, while another senior lawyer declared that his managers at the bank were "cunts".

Benoit Faure made the "Cheeky Chink" comment in an email last May after an Asian employee asked his team to provide some Excel spreadsheet data. The lawyer used the slur in a message he sent to colleagues after thanking her.


cheeky


An inside source described Faure as "old school" and liable to write "offensive things", but said the French national was "definitely not racist" and may have been tripped up by a language barrier. BNP Paribas has suspended the senior lawyer over his conduct, said the insider, although neither the bank nor Faure confirmed if any action had been taken against him.

The incident is likely to bring further pressure to bear on the French company after it was accused of whitewashing an investigation into Faure's colleague, Benedict Foster, earlier this year. Foster, who is BNP Paribas' London head of legal for debt and equity, issued a public apology for referring to an Asian colleague as 'Hu She'.

"I accept that I have said things to colleagues that were unacceptable. While a full investigation found no racist intent on my part, I understand that certain remarks made by me caused offence", Foster told The Telegraph in January. "I can only apologise for any distress I have caused, accept the appropriate sanction from my employer and commit to doing better in future", he said.

RollOnFriday has obtained the email chain in which Foster made the remark, and can confirm that the woman whom Foster called 'Hu She' is the same person referred to in derogatory terms by Faure. The correspondence shows that Faure was annoyed that a BNP Paribas announcement had put a positive spin on the departure of two staff, and asked who was responsible for the message. Foster suggested it was their Asian colleague, stating, "Isn't that Hu She? Global Head of Bag-Carrying?"


hushe


An internal investigation cleared Foster of racism over the comment. He was also accused of calling an Indian colleague "Biryani", but told investigators that he was actually using his own rhyming slang for the bank's General Counsel, Georges Dirani, said a source. Investigators exonerated him in relation to the allegation.

Foster's comfort with robust language in a work setting was evidenced by another email leaked to RollOnFriday in which the solicitor referred to a female boss and two other BNP Paribas managers as "cunts".


cnts


The bank’s treatment of Foster has infuriated some BNP Paribas staff, according to posts on the bank's internal messaging platform.

After details of Foster's 'Hu She' and 'Biryani' emails appeared in the press, UK employees took to the messaging app to complain about the bank's findings. In posts seen by RollOnFriday, they argued that Foster's punishment, which comprised a formal disciplinary warning and "additional remedial requirements" which included a training session, were too mild and indicated the bank was not treating the incident sufficiently seriously.

"How can we possibly hope to change the culture of the organisation when there are no consequences for blatant racist behaviour...It's frankly embarrassing to work for BNP Paribas right now", said one employee. "It's quite clear that the grievance process is a sham and a farce", said another.

The bank’s UK General Counsel, Helen Fletcher, responded by telling UK staff on the platform that Foster's comments were "undoubtedly rude, inappropriate and hurtful", and that "the uncomfortable reality is that whilst not racially motivated, this form of name calling has naturally had an impact on the experience of members of my team". However, said Fletcher, "it was clearly established that the label Biryani was not a reference to an employee of Indian origin" and that "in relation to the label Hu She", the internal BNP Paribas panel "was satisfied that this label was not racially motivated". 

An employee responded, "The words used by the individual are quite clearly racist and many of us do not require an investigation panel at the bank to tell us otherwise. Now perhaps the response to me will be that I am missing the content or that I do not know exactly what or how it was said, but until there is transparency and we are told exactly what was said then this will be the (in my opinion) very obvious conclusion". He added that "D&I is becoming meaningless as an action or goal when its context is simply based on how it looks to the outside would".

"We understand why the actions the bank took may look inadequate to the outside world", responded UK HR head Louise Fitzgerald-Lombard, "but be under no illusions: this was taken seriously, investigated forensically and the actions taken have serious, long term implications".

In a fractious to and fro between staff and management on the platform, Simon Olenka, UKMEA head of BNP Paribas, chipped in to tell them that, "whilst I am not personally involved in any of [the cases] I do know that they will have been investigated in microscopic detail. The problem is, respecting the confidential and sensitive nature of these incidents means that its not possible to communicate in advance".

At the time of publication, BNP Paribas, Foster, and Faure had not commented.

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Comments

BNP Paribas employee 10 March 22 23:17

When you go to BNP Paribas' diversity and inclusion page, it comes up with a message: "The requested page does not exist anymore". Not surprising given the number of closet and open racists here:

https://group.bnpparibas/en/diversity-equality-and-inclusion

 

 

Ooft 11 March 22 00:27

When I saw the headline I thought it might be sensationalising the messages... but they really are that bad. One has to wonder what's being said in person and Whatsapp if this is what's being written on work emails.

Not a great look for BNP, either, since they appear to have completely ignored a culture permissive of racial slurs.

lolz 11 March 22 00:39

the noughties called and they want their email-based workplace idiocy back. 

 

Have these muppets not heard of whatsapp? 

Tired of working with racists 11 March 22 01:10

This is common at BNP Paribas legal. It's a toxic environment where xenophobes like Benoit and Benedict just get a little slap on the wrists for their casual racism, before laughing it off. Time for anyone that values a dignified working environment where colleagues are respected to leave. 

Management chooses to sweep the problem with racism under the carpet again and again.

Greg Ip 11 March 22 04:59

Unbelievable. Should be fired immediately. Imagine if he called someone a "cheek n-word". There'd be riots everywhere and he'd be fired so fast.

This is 2022?! 11 March 22 06:58

Wow, just wow! Blatant racism and they’re still allowed to work at such a high profile bank. It says a lot about the culture of the place. Imagine having to work with these douchebags, regardless of what colour you are. 

Co-worker BNP paribas 11 March 22 07:26

Aside from the obvious racism (which is clear and should be a sackable offence) it is also very two-faced of these senior men. I’m not sure how I and other co-workers will feel next time we get an email request from Benoit or Benedict knowing that they’ll follow it up with horrible, snide comments behind our backs. I’m really disgusted by this. 

Marshall Hall 11 March 22 08:10

Ms Fletcher should be investigated by the SRA in stating that there was no racist intent.

 

Feeling dense on a Friday..... 11 March 22 09:56

Can someone explain the Hu She comment and what it is supposed to mean?  

S 11 March 22 10:35

I thought this was a lawyer forum….no one heard of due process and employment law?  The wheels of justice turn slowly but turn they do….I’m ex-BNPP legal (recent), a women of colour, and I never witnessed any racism in the legal department, on the contrary, it was a very inclusive environment. Two rotten apples don’t make a barrel of rotten apples

Anonymous 11 March 22 10:38

Very weak of BNP Paribas not to fire these dinosaurs. Can't believe a big bank or any large organisation lets people who have been caught red handed writing or saying racist things about their colleagues can keep their job. So much for diversity, equality and inclusion at BNP Paribas.

Anonymous 11 March 22 10:49

"many of us do not require an investigation panel at the bank to tell us"

Who needs these 'judges' and so-called 'juries' to tell us who is and isn't guilty? All you need to do is to look at him to know he's a wrong-un. Hanging at dawn, and no need to waste any time or money on all this 'due process and a fair hearing' malarky.

And don't forget - it's the other side who are the fascists. We're the tolerant goodies.

Anon 11 March 22 10:52

@S 10.35 - I'm really pleased that you never witnessed any racism in the legal department, but aren't you worried on the basis of these emails that they were just doing it with their mates about you, behind your back?

Helen Fletcher 11 March 22 10:56

Helen Fletcher actually said that there was no racist intent in Foster calling an Indian colleague biriyani. Imagine.

Anonymous 11 March 22 11:04

"I'm really pleased that you never witnessed any racism in the legal department, but aren't you worried on the basis of these emails that they were just doing it with their mates about you, behind your back?"

That's right, let's just tell the person from an ethnic minority how they're supposed to think and feel.

We can't have one with their own opinions now, can we?

Anonymous 11 March 22 11:06

Just doesn't seem right that this is the head of a department. How do people of colour working under him feel about this?

Also I agree with Greg lp: If he had used the N word he surely would have been fired.  

Ashamed to work at BNPP 11 March 22 11:30

I'm still trying to understand how clearly racist comments can be viewed as "not racially motivated". What else was the motivation?

Helen Fletcher's puny response to let Benoit and Benedict get away with such abhorrent language sets a bad example for the whole legal team.    

S 11 March 22 11:38

@anon, I understand your point and I completely agree that the emails are shocking but at the same time most of the comments in the article simply don’t reflect an understanding of how HR processes work - in the U.K. and France firing someone requires time and patience. And much of it happens behind the scenes. And I don’t believe for a second that many of the people I worked for and with were racist or that BNP tolerates racism. On the contrary. It’s too easy to jump to erroneous conclusions based on press commentary.

SS 11 March 22 11:46

No company is ever going to admit discrimination, no matter how strong the merits. Inevitably, they will always deny discrimination, even if they are sued in the Tribunal. This is why there is a problem.

Also, note the age of the individual. He is nearing retirement and most likely sufficiently well-off not to need to work. So that partly explains why he keeps making comments like this. 
The SRA may open an investigation of its own accord now that this is public. 
 

bnpp facepalm 11 March 22 11:48

Well the next diversity, equality and inclusion initiative is going to feel a little awkward if Benoit, Benedict or Helen turn up.....

Verkhovensky 11 March 22 11:50

We should protest peacefully and lawfully outside BNP offices against this and demand action. We will be setting up an activist group to launch the protests. 

Sam L 11 March 22 12:09

I wonder how Asian, Indian or other ethnic minority staff will feel the next time they receive an email or call from the perpetrators or the leadership team who dismissed the complaints

D&I in 2022 11 March 22 12:38

Totally agree @Verkhovensky. It's not acceptable. This isn't the 70s.
The enablers in management who have have given excuses for the racism (inexplicably saying it's "not racially motivated"!) are almost as much to blame. 

Anonymous 11 March 22 13:16

Wholly unacceptable.

I went to school with a friend from Hong Kong. I recently went for a pint with him and he still recalls a kid at school calling him a "chinky" during a basketball game. The incident was around 1998. Slurs hurt.

Anonymous 11 March 22 13:28

Very strangely worded vindication by Helen Fletcher.

I'm guessing there weren't any people of colour on the panel who deemed it be 'not racially motivated'

Mike 11 March 22 13:42

Sad and pathetic. Management and HR have no backbone to stand up to the racists, as they're pretty much justifying the racism and letting them off the hook.

BNP HR, honest 11 March 22 14:21

As a reminder to BNP Paribas employees posting here, the discussions between BNP Paribas UK employees and London Branch management on the Rungway forum are confidential and should not be shared externally. BNPP has strict policies in place on sharing content externally. You must at all times avoid sharing confidential information and behave professionally. This isn't Twitter.

Be under no illusions: this was taken seriously, investigated forensically and the actions taken have serious, long term implications. Racism has no place at BNP Paribas. However we must not rush to conclusions, based on sensational press reports. Whilst hurtful, the conduct here was definitely not racist, because [the people being investigated] said so.

Anonymous 11 March 22 14:55

"I wonder how Asian, Indian or other ethnic minority staff will feel

No consideration of Palestinian staff, I see.

Jim Davidson “Comedian” 11 March 22 15:46

Sounds like a delightful place to work. Plus I need some more material for my next gig 

BNPP trader 11 March 22 16:19

To the racists and apologists in legal, well done for dragging BNPP's name through the mud today. I've had people from other companies asking me about this; quite rightly completely appalled. Hope you're proud. 

BNPP Lifer 11 March 22 16:54

@BNP HR, honest

That parody is painfully accurate. The last sentence would be funny if it wasn't all so embarrassing ....

A N Onymouse 11 March 22 18:56

I wonder how the women feel working with someone who has referred to a female manager as a c**t - if he said that in one email I wonder what more has been said on IM, in meeting rooms, at desks...

Did BNP only 'investigate' the racism - is misogyny simply accepted in that bank?

Anonymous 11 March 22 18:56

I'm getting so sick of the feeble "oh, he's old school, he didn't mean any harm by it" excuse. Join the 21st century already.

Anonymous 11 March 22 22:07

I know a couple of people who've worked there.  Apparently the London-based lawyer (Foster) has been like this forever and legal management have brushed it under the carpet.  More and more will come out about this no doubt.

Soc Gen lawyer 12 March 22 09:00

Turning a blind eye to barefaced racism is not a good look for a GC. Shameful.

Unkle Superior 12 March 22 09:32

Will BNP please confirm a complete and urgent clear out of all racists masquerading as legal managers? RoF awaits a response. Silence will be taken as refusal to accept that there is any issue to address. 

Citi solicitor 12 March 22 10:23

BNPP sending out a strong message to the jobs market - don't come and work here unless you're comfortable with casual racism 

In-House sol at bank 12 March 22 15:49

How can the bnpp legal leadership team talk about values and respect in the workplace, when it allows senior staff to stay at the bank, with evidence that this is the sort of language they use against their own colleagues.

Appalled insider 13 March 22 15:13

BNPP managers and HR are dealing with this terribly: they're telling people internally that this is sensational press reporting rather than looking at themselves and their feeble defence of this atrocious misconduct.

They seem to forget we've all seen the emails with the explicit racist language, which management and HR tried to brush away with the weak excuse that it "was not racially motivated". They are the ones twisting it, not the press.   

ex bnpp legal 13 March 22 20:06

Horrible place to work. Racism and backstabbing rife at senior level as shown in these emails. Leaders are fully aware of the bigotry but choose to ignore .... their weak response here is not surprising. Needs a complete overhaul from the top to get rid of the prejudice and those who permit it.

upset and angry at bnpp 14 March 22 09:14

This place has heads of department undermining others with offensive comments, there's whitewashing by HR and an ineffectual management unable or unwilling to boot out the offenders. There are too many people at the top wondering what all the fuss is about. Feels like it's time to hand in my notice.

barclays 14 March 22 10:25

I'm struggling to understand how there could be no racist intent when the emails can be seen in plain language without nuance. If bnpp doesn't fire these men it just looks like they're just giving excuses and condoning racism.

ExBNPP lawyer 14 March 22 10:49

makes you wonder what is the endgame for the GC and HR behind whitewashing plain racism. Avoid  scandal? good luck with that. It makes no sense at all to hide behind their investigation when it is clearly fundamentally flawed. You have people with impressive-sounding title (UK heads of dtp) who seem to lack basic common sense, or worse, condone straight up evil behaviour.

Shame though, BNPP's legal department is a friendly place overall, and these two are not representative of the other lawyers.

Goethe Cash 14 March 22 13:49

For HR read PR. 
 

Anyone ever seen an HR department side with the wronged party against the firm?

Not in the legal world of London. 

Anonymous 14 March 22 14:37

"Feels like it's time to hand in my notice."

Go on then.

No need to waste time virtue signalling about it on an anonymous online discussion board. Senior management aren't reading keenly and quaking in their boots that Unknown Drone #3823 is about to quit unless they immediately change their ways.

Just walk on down to HR on the 5th floor and do it already if you feel that way.

Anonymoose 14 March 22 19:04

What is most striking is you have 'Heads of' that are so thick they would commit such nonsense to writing in a work e-mail. 

In the know 15 March 22 12:11

@anon 14:37 BNP have been struggling to recruit and retain "drones" for some time now so this will no doubt make that issue worse. 

Anonymous 15 March 22 16:17

@Anonymous 14 March 14:37

Nice of HR to pop up in the comments, showing empathy as usual to anyone here who complains about blatant racism.  

Do they do IQ tests at bnpp? 15 March 22 21:28

A nomination for Worst Argument of 2022:

However, said Fletcher, "it was clearly established that the label Biryani was not a reference to an employee of Indian origin" and that "in relation to the label Hu She", the internal BNP Paribas panel "was satisfied that this label was not racially motivated"

What planet are these people on?!?

Bnpp 15 March 22 22:40

If Biriyani & Hu She are not racial slurs, what did Benedict Foster call his English colleagues? Fish & Chips?

And what about “Cunts”? Is that sexually offensive or should that also be taken light heartedly?

Anonyyyyymous 16 March 22 10:59

What about all the other people on the emails (there appear to be quite a few!) - did any of them call out the racist or misogynistic language or get investigated for not doing so? No doubt they are all senior people so one wonders if this culture is more entrenched than a couple of bad apples.

LDN solicitor 16 March 22 12:09

Our firm works with bnpp legal. We're a diverse bunch so I'd like to know what offensive names the bnpp lot call us behind our backs!

Anonymous 16 March 22 14:36

"it was clearly established that the label Biryani was not a reference to an employee of Indian origin" and that "in relation to the label Hu She", the internal BNP Paribas panel "was satisfied that this label was not racially motivated"

 

What planet are these people on?!?"

 

One in which they have possession of all of the evidence, have had an opportunity to speak to the parties involved, and in which they aren't coming to the matter as uninformed outsiders relying only on news clippings?

BNPP lawyer 16 March 22 16:02

“One in which they have possession of all of the evidence, have had an opportunity to speak to the parties involved, and in which they aren't coming to the matter as uninformed outsiders relying only on news clippings?”

 

i wish. due process has never been so much abused. 
 

Word has it that the HR note taker during the investigation kept bursting out laughing during one of interviews. Apparently HR and the head of legal was told by different people on several occasions of BF’s deeply problematic behaviour and never took it seriously. 

BNPP legal 16 March 22 16:15

@14:36 -  We are not uninformed at BNPP legal. We have seen the emails. "Hu She" is a poor joke attempt at mimicking an Asian sounding name for an Asian colleague (Who she? Hilarious, hey?!). "Biryani" is an Indian dish and Dirani is of Indian heritage. Both are offensive racial slurs.

Blaming the news or hiding behind the line "the investigation concluded this, so you have to accept it" without any transparency is the reason people here are so pissed off with apologists in management and HR. It's fair for us to raise concerns about the handling of offensive behaviour by a (now retired) head of department.

We'd be interested in hearing an explanation for "Biryani" not referring to Indian food or "Hu She" not being a piss-take for an Asian name. But we haven't been given one. That has nothing to do with the confidentiality of an investigation, it's because there is no logical rebuttal for language that is clearly racist.

BNPP legal 16 March 22 16:29

@LDN solicitor 16 March 22 12:09 - if you really want to know, file a GDPR SAR

Nigel farrage 16 March 22 16:46

How much did Benedict get paid off to retire? Have the victims received anything?

Hi HR, Lots of love from BNPP Legal 16 March 22 17:29

HR are a bunch of dumbass, slow-witted, foolish, pea-brained thickos. 

A confidential investigation has clearly established that calling HR "a bunch of dumbass, slow-witted, foolish, pea-brained thickos" does not mean we think they are stupid. Uninformed people relying on news clippings have jumped to erroneous conclusions that by naming HR as "pea-brained thickos" we are calling them dense. 

The Bank for a Changing World 16 March 22 17:49

This is how it will play out:

-  'communications' from HR/Management stating how racism is unacceptable (the 'cunt' comment will continue to be ignored because, let's face it, who cares about women) and continue to hide behind the 'investigations'. 

- the whole legal department will get training about not being racist maybe with a bit of unconscious bias stuff thrown in for good measure (but don't worry about sexism) hence ignoring the point that this was a senior person communicating with other senior people who didn't call it out. This will piss off the entire team and there will be a complete failure to address the issue of the cliquey senior management level of the department (I did a brief stint there and most of them don't even bother to say 'hello' to anyone in the department who is not in the 'in-crowd').

- someone lower down the food chain will make an ill judged comment over the coming months and will be the sacrificial lamb in order to show the wider bank how senior management in legal does not tolerate racism/breaches of the 'culture'. This won't change the fact that no one dared to speak out about a senior person, that the other senior people on the emails didn't call out the behaviour or get investigated and it won't change the two-tier culture of the department.

- Job done, everyone's happy.

BNPP HR love 16 March 22 18:09

as the French would say, Helen/Louise, démission ! Usually chanted at demonstrations, but you get the drift

The attitude of legal management has always been "we have fully considered all the facts and have concluded that we are right". Doubtful this will change especially where they are at fault here for allowing these clowns to behave like this.

Bemused 16 March 22 22:51

Wait so all this and Foster retired anyway? Massive loss of integrity for nothing? hope the victim either moves or gets a huge pay out.  What happened to the French one? Rungway must be pretty spicy nowadays!

BNPP HR love 17 March 22 10:51

the incompetence of HR and the UK GC is just staggering. let that be a warning to other employers thinking of poaching them. Complete failure to police their managers, enforce basic professional rules and they had plenty of warning signs. I hope that the SRA and/or the FCA step in. The refusal to conduct a competent investigation and offer a modicum of transparency was one thing. The mendacity of the Head of HR ("investigated forensically") and the Head of Legal ("not racially motivated") is another. What I find most shocking in the lack of a formal apology from BNPP management. The department heads let senior lawyers behave very badly for years, and completely fail to take responsibility for it. Disgraceful. How can these people sleep at night?

BNPPer 17 March 22 13:22

Rungway has been down since last week. Seems that open and transparent communication with our people is no longer a core value or embedded in our DNA. We couldn't possibly have free communication for management to be held to account now could we?

Gendarme of Saint Torquay 17 March 22 19:01

This latest episode simply reveals what all BNPP lawyers already knew - the corporate culture of their department is rotten to the core.

And this should come as no surprise given the Trumpian levels of egotism and narcissism regularly on display by legal management.

BNPP may well claim to be the bank for a changing world, however, it’s legal department ressembles something out of the XIXth century. 

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