In a fascinating recent case, the Employment Tribunal ruled in favour of Citibank against a senior analyst who was dismissed because he submitted an expense claim that included meals for his partner while on a business trip and then lied about it.

Trainee solicitor Brogan Pennington reviews the decision in Mr S Fekete v Citibank and examines what employers and employees can learn from the result.


Background to the tribunal case

The claimant had worked at Citibank since 2015 and had seven years of service with no disciplinary issues. In 2022, he travelled to Amsterdam on a business trip. Prior to travelling he informed his colleague he would be taking his partner on the trip. A day after returning from the trip he went on medical leave for six weeks. During this period of absence, he submitted his expenses claim to Citibank for his business trip to Amsterdam. He was informed by a senior colleague who was asked to review and approve the expense claim that it would be rejected because the bank believed the meals the claimant had paid for and expensed were consumed by two people.

The judgment includes extracts of emails between the claimant and Citibank in which his senior colleague questions his food consumption, saying: “The receipt appears to have two sandwiches, two coffees, and another drink. […] Are you advising that this was all consumed by you?”

The claimant responded saying: “Yes, that is correct. Kindly advise Adam that on that day I skipped breakfast and only had 1 coffee in the morning. For lunch I had 1 sandwich with a drink and 1 coffee in the restaurant and took another coffee back to the office with me and had the second sandwich in the afternoon… which also served as my dinner.”

The claimant added that the amounts were “well within my €100 limit”. The claimant emphasised in further emails that all of his expenses were “within the €100 daily allowance” and was unsure why he was having to “justify [his] eating habits to this extent”.

Not satisfied with the claimant’s explanation, the bank commenced an investigation. During the investigation, the claimant admitted that his partner had travelled with him to Amsterdam but denied they had had shared a meal together. This was a lie.

The claimant subsequently confessed and admitted that some of the food had been consumed by his partner and he had expensed this in breach of the bank’s expenses policy.

Following a disciplinary hearing, Citibank dismissed the claimant.

The claimant suggested he lied due to the fact he had been on medical leave and under medication when responding to emails about his expense claim and was also grieving the loss of his grandmother.


Tribunal’s findings

Employment Judge Illing found that Citibank had taken into account all mitigating factors for the claimant’s conduct, including his state of mind, in “conjunction with how he answered the questions and the reasons put forward by him as to why he acted as he did”.

The tribunal dismissed the complaints of unfair and wrongful dismissal, saying the “decision to dismiss the claimant fell within the band of reasonable responses which a reasonable employer might have adopted”. The judge ruled that the claimant was “employed in a position of trust” and that he was “satisfied that even if the expense claim had been filed under a misunderstanding, there was an obligation upon the claimant to own up and rectify the position at the first opportunity. I accept that the respondent requires a commitment to honesty from its employees.”

Stating the obvious, employees who submit fraudulent expenses claims, and are then dishonest when challenged, run the risk of being dismissed.



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