Australia's ANZ sued by former traders

Pedestrians walk past the entrance to the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) building Image copyright AFP
Image caption ANZ is Australia's third-largest lender

One of Australia's biggest banks, ANZ, is being sued for tens of millions of dollars by two sacked traders who claim the lender encouraged a toxic workplace culture, including drugs and alcohol.

The two are claiming unfair dismissal and have made serious allegations about some ANZ staff.

Etienne Alexiou and Patrick O'Connor were fired in 2015 for "serious breaches" of ANZ's code of conduct.

ANZ said it would be vigorously defending the pairs' court claims.

The lending giant, which is the country's third-largest, also said it was investigating all matters raised by the men.

Both Mr O'Connor and Mr Alexiou were fired over "highly inappropriate and offensive electronic communication", the bank's chief risk officer Nigel Williams said, while Mr O'Connor's reasons for dismissal also included the abuse of a company credit card.

Mr Alexiou is suing for 30m Australian dollars ($20.8m; £14.4m) for loss of bonuses and "a self-assessed figure for his expected future earnings", the lender told the BBC.

In a separate court claim, Mr O'Connor, who worked for the bank for 10 years, is demanding his job back and the return of his 2015 bonus of $800,000 - or that he be compensated for loss of future income, damages and bonuses.

The two men have also made allegations about some existing and former staff at ANZ, with stories of visits to strip clubs, drunk and disorderly behaviour - including driving a vehicle onto a golf course - and of poor behaviour towards investors and clients.

The bank said it was committed to investigating all cases bought to its attention "either through our own management and monitoring or those raised by current or former staff".

Bad timing

Image copyright Getty Images

The claims by the two former employees come at a bad time for the bank.

In 2014, it suspended seven traders as part of an inquiry into the potential rigging of key interbank interest rates. Both Mr Alexiou and Mr O'Connor were among the seven.

Further, in November last year, the bank said it was paying out compensation to 200,000 customers totalling A$13m after it failed to apply correct interest payments to some accounts for several years.

It has also been embroiled in one of the largest class action suits in Australia which started in 2010 and involved 43,500 customers claiming the lending giant had charged them exorbitant fees.

In February 2014, a court found in partial favour of the customers - however that ruling was later overturned.

"We understand that these [current] claims come at a time where there is community concern about behaviours in some financial markets businesses around the world," Mr Williams said.

"Mr O'Connor and Mr Alexiou's claims are difficult to read for all of us at ANZ but common sense says their behaviours are not consistent with our code of conduct and cannot be tolerated."

The lender said it wanted to be known as a bank with a strong focus on ethics and fairness.

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