Barclays banker felt pigeonholed as 'aggressive Black man' -lawsuit

·3-min read
FILE PHOTO: A view shows signage on a branch of Barclays Bank in London

By Kirstin Ridley

LONDON (Reuters) -A Barclays banker, one of three men of Cameroonian background to sue the bank in a joint London claim, alleges he has felt pigeonholed as an "aggressive Black man" in a lawsuit seeking almost 15 million pounds ($19 million) in damages.

Christian Abanda Bella, 41, is the last to be cross examined in the case, in which the men allege they have been bullied, harassed and denied promotion and appropriate support, in part because of their race. They are claiming a combined 52.8 million pounds in compensation.

Barclays, which declined to comment, is defending itself against the claim, which names a number of managers and is due to continue into June.

Abanda Bella, a Barclays vice president and quantitative analyst who joined in 2017 but has been signed off work with depression since 2019, alleges he felt ostracised after formally raising a series of concerns, that included worries about the bank's risk management models.

But Claire McCann, a lawyer for Barclays, alleged on Tuesday that he had been confrontational and over-reaching, did not really believe Barclays risked breaching compliance rules and suggested he had encouraged the dissatisfaction of his co-claimants, Louis Samnick and Henry-Serge Moune Nkeng, at work.

"After you joined (Barclays in 2017), you influenced them to view management in a negative light, didn't you?" she asked at a hearing in the East London Employment Tribunal.

"No," Abanda Bella responded.

Racial discrimination cases in England, Wales and Scotland have climbed steadily to more than 4,000 in 2020/2021 from 1,858 in 2014/15 - although the rise is eclipsed by age discrimination cases, which surged to top 15,300 from 1,087 over the period, government data shows.

Susan Kelly, an employment lawyer at Winckworth Sherwood, points to a societal shift towards calling out workplace conduct. "People are increasingly unwilling to tolerate things that were considered 'normal' a few years ago – from sexual harassment to bullying to ... discrimination," she says.

Samnick, a former vice president who left the bank in 2021, also alleges he was victimised after raising concerns about models in a claim that including disability discrimination over anxiety and depression. He is seeking over 20 million pounds.

Samnick, 44, alleges the Prudential Regulation Authority, a regulator, validated "to some extent" his views on the bank's models and prompted Barclays to change its methodology.

The third claimant, 35-year-old Moune Nkeng, alleges he faced a hostile work environment after sustaining a knee injury playing football in 2015 that led to a series of operations and left him feeling trapped and fearful for his job. The assistant vice president is claiming 17.88 million pounds.

McCann has alleged Moune Nkeng had been selective with his evidence, misrepresented emails and that parts of his case were exaggerated in an attempt to "explain away" things that undermined his arguments.

She told the court last week there was no evidence Samnick had blown the whistle in 2012 or 2014 about financial modelling.

Samnick questioned the authenticity of documents provided by the bank about who attended meetings, at which he said he raised his concerns. He asked for the metadata, which can show the last time a document is modified.

($1 = 0.8031 pounds)

(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Mark Potter)