Once upon a time, an Aussie named Robert Bou-Simon worked at London brokerage BGC Partners. In 2005, he left the firm to explore his options elsewhere, and in 2012, rejoined as the head of the basis swaps desk. This time, though, things were different. None of his old buddies were there. There were new names to learn and new faces to remember. Even though he’d worked at BGC for the better half a decade in the early 2000s, people treated him like he was the new guy, and, as the new guy, expected him to take part in a sort of wet t-shirt “initiation” exercise taken very seriously by the staff, who bristled at the idea of someone electing to take a pass, which is where things started to go south for Bou-Simon.
Robert Bou-Simon, who was head of the basis swaps desk in London, said he was mistreated by colleagues and managers, and eventually forced to resign, according to his witness statement at a U.K. employment tribunal yesterday…The tradition requires “brokers to run across the floor whilst others throw water at them after they complete their first trade,” Bou-Simon said. He said the practice was unsafe, citing an incident where an employee was taken to the hospital after colliding with a piece of furniture…Bou-Simon’s refusal to do the run after he joined the firm in 2012 “did not go down well with my colleagues on the floor” who chanted “only real men run,” according to his witness statement. Bou-Simon, an Australian citizen, alleged a manager called his behavior “downright un-Australian.”
Also at issue was Bou-Simon’s soccer and rugby team allegiances, which supposedly ruffled some feathers.
He also says he was taunted because he was a fan of West London soccer club Chelsea and an Australian rugby team.
According to BGC, Bou-Simon’s firing had nothing to do with not wanting to run around the office while people pelted him with water and everything to do with a fundamental disagreement re: where and when it’s appropriate to catch some shut eye.
Bou-Simon said in the witness statement that U.K. general manager Mark Webster tried to force him out of the firm with disciplinary investigations and by offering him an unsuitable transfer to a BGC unit called MINT. One such investigation began when Webster found Bou-Simon asleep at his desk, which Bou-Simon said wasn’t uncommon at the brokerage. Bou-Simon was “supposed to be an example” to colleagues as desk head, Webster told the tribunal when he appeared as a witness in the case yesterday. Being asleep was “a horrible signal.”