"Thanks for having me, you f**king weakhander gobsh**e w**kers."

The lawyer who called his bosses "c***s" has left BNP Paribas.

Benedict Foster, who was BNP Paribas' London head of legal for debt and equity, was investigated last year after emails emerged in which he called an Asian colleague 'Hu She' and his managers "cunts". He was also alleged to have called an Indian colleague "biryani". Further pressure was brought to bear when more details emerged last week.

In an all-staff email on Monday, the bank’s UK General Counsel, Helen Fletcher, announced that Foster was "retiring" from the French bank. He is understood to have been on leave since February, but the announcement seems to have been made in something of a hurry. There is now no head of the UK DECM legal team, with Fletcher telling staff the new management structure would be confirmed and communicated "as soon as possible". BNP Paribas did not respond to requests for a comment*.

An internal investigation imposed sanctions on Foster which included extra training, but cleared the solicitor of racist intent. 

However, the bank's response was seen as supine by some staff, who used BNP Paribas' internal messaging board, Rungway, to criticise its handling of the incident.

"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 on Rungway. "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 staff on the platform that Foster's comments were "undoubtedly rude, inappropriate and hurtful", but that, "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". 

The French bank's UK Deputy Country Head, Francois Draveny, invited aggrieved staff to consider the investigation "through a different lens", suggesting that if they were wrongly accused of misconduct, they "would be very keen for the organisation to carefully consider all the evidence and context, rather than rely on the 'Court of public opinion'".

Following RollOnFriday's story describing the Rungway contretemps, BNPP warned staff the platform was confidential, and then closed it down entirely, according to sources.

*Because they are incredibly pissed off at ROF.

Tip Off ROF


Mens Rea 18 March 22 09:22

I'm so glad that someone's intention behind communicating in a racist manner exculpates them - it really does send the right message to racial minotories that they can expect to work in a safe and inclusive environment as long as their seniors/colleagues did not *intend* to use objectively unacceptable lanauge, thereby making it acceptable afterall.

Anonymous 18 March 22 10:50

It just seems so unjust.

If one uses the N word in a jokey way and without an intent to offend, then you shouldn't get fired for it.

Obviously you would need to satisfy HR after a proper investigation that it was a joke, but if they come away recognising that it was mere banter then that should be fine. 

The idea that some random twitter mob of blue haired narcissists and professional offence seekers should be entitled to hound you out of a job for it is just absurd. It's literally the same as living in China.

Anonymous 18 March 22 11:49

I wish BNP would just deal with instances like this swiftly and sensibly. They are a major supplier to my organisation and we have been horrified at their response. In turn, this has caused my and my team considerable work in having to review the terms of our contract with them and line up alternative suppliers so that once we swing the axe we are not left in limbo.

I'll no doubt now be asked to undertake a review into whether the actions taken are sufficient to avoid that, thus creating more work to potentially undo everything already done. Or alternatively more work to arrive at same axe-swinging destination. Shambles. Happy Friday.

Obi-Dan 18 March 22 11:56

Would I be overly cynical to suggest BNP were prepared to overlook the blatant racism of an employee - up to the point he called his direct line managers "c*nts" (considered a "step too far"?)....

HL Partner 18 March 22 12:14

It's FriYAY! In today's sycophantic post on LinkedIn should I put into practice all the nonsense I spout about how I like to empower and support women by expressing my views on the handsy associate at my firm and my firm's decision to give him a payout? No! I will post a picture of me standing in my kitchen holding a cup of coffee accompanied by a bunch of chaff about how incredible, charitable, successful, kind, and hard working I am. 

BNPP lawyer 18 March 22 12:27

@Anonymous 18 March 22 11:49 - I would make sure I let them know why your organisation is cutting ties. Best way is to have a chat with the relationship banker who looks after client account. They would be able to relay the message at a senior business level that this was not acceptable, and has direct commercial consequences.

BNPP HR love 18 March 22 12:29

@Anonymous 18 March 22 10:50 - the problem here is that the bad behaviour went way further than one slip of the tongue. We are talking about years of disrespecting fellow employees loudly on the legal floor, multiple emails with a variety of very offensive content, and a general unpleasantness that doens't exactly plead in favour of clemency.

Unintended consequences 19 March 22 10:00

At the Irish boarding school I attended in the 1990s taunts were used between the students like the N word, generally used against someone who was slightly darker than the average translucent Irish pallor, and for anyone who was unfortunate not to have enough cash jangling around in their pockets, well, they were jokingly referred to as Jews. No racist intent meant of course, just rollicking good banter.  You see, the Irish weren’t racist back then. Oddly the two African brothers at our school, named Issac and Moses, didn’t see it that way.  They just didn’t understand that there was no racist intent behind either of these taunts. Although perhaps after they left the school it did sink in and perhaps now one of them is at BNP and explaining this to their other non-white colleagues so they don’t get upset about this type of banter, and so there’s nothing to worry about and no harm was done. 


HL Partner 19 March 22 12:22

It's still FriYAY! Have I posted about the reported awful victimisation of a female employee at my work? No! I have instead told a story about the time I had to carry a heavy box. 

Anonymous 21 March 22 13:10

You see, the Irish weren’t racist back then.

Hang on a moment! Stop right there!

The Irish aren't racist today, I think that you will find.

Only the most assiduous avoider of Irish opinion could have failed to have been notified that we are some of the most enlightened people in all of Europe. Having risen from bitter colonial oppression by an Empire in which we played absolutely no part* to build an economic miracle using nothing but our own ingenuity and the sweat of our brows (a feat rivalled only by the former downtrodden natives of the 'British' Virgin Isles). 

We are now widely regarded as some of the EU's most progressive people. Equal to the Scandinavians who, in their truly introspective moments, now often look to us for moral guidance. They recognise, you see, that we are tolerant and diverse here in the Republic - the nearly universal whiteness of the population being an irrelevant coincidence and our very recent history of sectarian hatred being of no relevance to contemporary consideration. It's all been vanished away in a single generation. Another miracle.

What's for certain is that we are paragons of virtue compared to the wicked English who lurk to our East. They would do well to learn from us about the follies and moral hazard of basing an economic model on casino banking and money laundering, which is surely the preserve of crooks, bigots and hatemongers.

Were you not aware?

It's almost as if you've never read a single edition of the Irish Times?




*Those raised all their lives in Ireland who went on to have well storied careers making fortunes in colonial pursuits were in fact 'British' you see. We true Irish were merely present but not involved.

Don’t be a troll 21 March 22 16:24

@HL Partner it’s pretty sad to troll in the comments section of a completely unrelated article. To bring this back to the subject matter of the article - what a ****.

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