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HSBC Bank executive claims discrimination and unauthorized use of WhatsApp

In a federal lawsuit, a current HSBC Bank USA executive claimed she had experienced discrimination and retaliation for bringing up regulatory infractions including unauthorized contacts by bank workers that management had either downplayed or ignored.

The claims were made in a discrimination case filed on August 19 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by Monique Thacker, an Indian-born employee of HSBC Bank since 2013. To evaluate her allegations and decide compensatory damages, she requests a jury trial.

According to her LinkedIn page, Thacker is currently a senior vice president and chief administrative officer, wealth management U.S. for HSBC Securities as well as the president of HSBC Insurance Agency.

Less than a week after the bank warned all workers not to use unauthorized communication channels to do company business, Thacker said in her lawsuit that she raised concerns about the unauthorized use of WhatsApp by two private banking staff in April. In their WhatsApp talk, Thacker claimed the two workers were disparaging the compliance division.

The two employees' use of WhatsApp without authorization could have resulted in their termination, but instead, the lawsuit claimed, they received "highly preferential treatment" in the form of mentoring.

Recently, regulatory agencies including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) have taken action against employees using unofficial messaging apps for professional discussions. For recordkeeping violations, JPMorgan Chase paid the SEC and CFTC $200 million in fines in December. Several banks, including Bank of America, Barclays, and Morgan Stanley, have lately announced their expectation of receiving similar fines.

By the end of September, over a dozen banks are anticipated to pay fines related to employee usage of illicit messaging services, the Wall Street Journal reported this week.

Thacker claimed in her lawsuit that HSBC Bank frequently puts compliance last, such as when it introduces new products without having established supervisory procedures or properly training its sales team.

According to Thacker, HSBC Bank engaged groups of workers in Mexico and Chile without the necessary permissions, and the arrangements ought to have been examined by him or a member of the bank's compliance team.

Thacker claimed that after bringing up these and other compliance- and regulatory-related issues, she started getting subpar performance assessments and had her assignments altered frequently. She claimed that she and others who were working to make sure the bank followed regulatory guidelines felt threatened, intimidated, and retaliated against. Compliance personnel (were) instructed to 'stand down' when voicing concerns or objecting, according to the complaint.

In her lawsuit, Thacker stated that "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."

"We take allegations like these very seriously and do not comment on pending litigation," an HSBC Bank spokeswoman wrote in an email. "We look forward to the opportunity to address the allegations in court."


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