A current HSBC Bank USA executive claimed in a federal lawsuit she was discriminated and retaliated against for raising regulatory violations involving unauthorized communications by bank employees that were downplayed or ignored by management.
Monique Thacker, an HSBC Bank employee since 2013 and a woman of Indian descent, made the allegations in a discrimination lawsuit filed Aug. 19 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. She seeks a jury trial to weigh her claims and determine compensatory damages.
Thacker is currently a senior vice president and chief administrative officer, wealth management U.S. for HSBC Securities, as well as president of HSBC Insurance Agency, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Thacker claimed in her lawsuit she raised concerns in April regarding the unauthorized use of WhatsApp by two private banking employees, less than a week after the bank issued a warning to all employees not to use unauthorized communication channels to conduct firm business. Thacker claimed the two employees were denigrating the compliance department in their WhatsApp chat.
Although the unauthorized use of WhatsApp could have led to dismissal for the two employees, they were instead given “highly preferential treatment” in the form of coaching, the lawsuit said.
Regulatory bodies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) have cracked down recently on employees’ business communications on unapproved messaging platforms. JPMorgan Chase paid $200 million in fines to the SEC and CFTC for recordkeeping violations in December, and several banks, including Bank of America, Barclays, and Morgan Stanley, have recently disclosed their anticipation of similar penalties.
Nearly a dozen banks are expected to be fined regarding employee use of unauthorized messaging platforms by the end of September, according to a report this week from the Wall Street Journal.
In her complaint, Thacker said HSBC Bank regularly prioritizes sales and revenues over compliance, like when it launches products without supervisory procedures in place and without proper training of the sales force.
Thacker claimed HSBC Bank hired groups of employees in Mexico and Chile who lacked the required licenses, and that the arrangements should have been reviewed by Thacker or someone in the bank’s compliance department.
After raising these and other compliance- and regulatory-related issues, Thacker said she began receiving poor performance reviews and had her responsibilities changed numerous times. She said herself and others attempting to ensure the bank complied with regulatory policies were “feeling threatened, bullied, and retaliated against. Compliance individuals (were) told to ‘stand down’ when raising issues or pushing back,” the complaint said.
“The whistleblower retaliation is particularly egregious, since non-Indian white employees engage in regulatory violations all of the time without consequence,” Thacker wrote in her complaint.
HSBC Bank response: “We take allegations like these very seriously and do not comment on pending litigation,” a spokesperson for HSBC Bank said in an emailed statement. “We look forward to the opportunity to address the allegations in court.”