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One of the more unglamorous aspects of being an adult with a job outside the home is the matter of commuting. Whether you’re driving, taking the subway, or being chauffeured, the entire thing is a grind, a time-suck, a nuisance, and an opportunity to catch whatever the breeding grounds for bacteria violating your personal space are spreading, to say nothing of the fact that depending on how far you live from the office, the whole thing can cost a nice chunk of change, money that could be better spent on just about anything.
BlackRock exec Jonathan Burrows knew the evils of the daily commute all too well. He wanted to live outside of London, in East Sussex, but he still had to show his face around the office Monday through Friday, which meant spending an hour on the train each way. He couldn’t get rid of the 2+ hour slog, or the commoners with whom he had to interact en route, but he should, he told himself one day, be able to cut the cost. AND CUT COSTS HE DID.
Jonathan Burrows has been unmasked as the mystery fare dodger of East Sussex who hit the news after settling a £43,000 bill for unpaid tickets over five years. The 44-year-old investment executive is thought to be the biggest fare dodger in history – avoiding the £21.50-a-day fee, despite owning two mansions worth £4million. He had hoped to avoid prosecution and publicity by reimbursing Southeastern trains just three days after being caught by a ticket inspector last November. Law-abiding commuters were outraged when the story broke in April that the rail firm had allowed him to quietly settle the allegations without being prosecuted…
His commuting scam was uncovered last year when a ticket inspector at London’s Cannon Street station, close to Burrows’s office, saw him swiping through the ticket barriers with his pre-paid Oyster travel card. The inspector realised Burrows had been charged only £7.20 – the modest penalty imposed when a passenger has failed to swipe in at the start of a journey. Burrows admitted having failed to use his Oyster card to tap in for five journeys between London Bridge – where he got off his train from East Sussex – and Cannon Street, which should have cost him just £2.30 a time. However, further inquiries revealed that until 2008 Burrows had been buying an annual season ticket from Stonegate, which has no ticket barriers, to Cannon Street, which costs around £4,500 a year for standard class. A standard daily single fare is £21.50. He had then stopped buying season tickets, but simply continued working in London, apparently only paying £7.20 for the brief final leg of his long train journey. Southeastern told Burrows he owed them £42,550 in unpaid fares, plus £450 in legal costs.
But the ire of his fellow full-freight paying commuters was not the only thing Burrows had to deal with.
The news also came to the attention of City watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority, with which Burrows was registered. It started its own probe over concerns that his actions showed a lack of probity that could make him unsuitable for City work.
Naturally, he nonchalantly mentioned this to his bosses as though he was giving them a head’s up that he was going to be leaving work early one day next month for a doctor’s appointment.
…it wasn’t until last week that he warned bosses at asset management firm BlackRock – who knew nothing of his fare-dodging shame – that they might be getting a call from the regulator…A City source told the Mail: ‘Burrows was a very senior fund manager with BlackRock, dealing with hundreds of millions of pounds on a daily basis. But only last week he suddenly told his bosses, “The FCA might give you a call”. ‘He only let slip in passing that it was about this £40,000 fare-dodging payment. They suspended him immediately, but he refused to explain anything at all about the fare-dodging – and when more questions were asked he resigned without a payoff.
The best part of this story, of course, is that Burrows wasn’t working at some 2-bit brokerage house but the biggest asset manager in the world, and not as some pissant second year analyst but as a senior executive, which would be not unlike seeing surveillance footage of Gary Cohn jumping turnstiles in the subway or hearing that Jamie Dimon has avoided paying cab fare for the past decade by simply opening the door and rolling out of the car a block before his stop.