UBS Trader Sues Claiming Stress Damaged His Mental Health
(Bloomberg) -- A UBS Group AG trader sued his employer over allegations the “toxic” London work environment and “punishing workload” caused his mental health to deteriorate so far he was no longer able to work.
A 35-year veteran at the Swiss bank, Simon Rope, is seeking more than 200,000 pounds ($273,000), for negligence over an anxiety disorder caused by “the stress to which he was subjected in” UBS’s London office, his lawyers alleged in a U.K. lawsuit. Rope has survived at least 17 rounds of redundancies but hasn’t returned to the trading floor since 2018, they said.
The case offers a window into the stressful world of trading, and the mental toll it can have on workers under pressure to drive profits and not make costly mistakes. In recent years, European traders have pushed for shorter days in order to address concerns over work-life balance and the impact on their mental health.
UBS denied negligence and breaching its duty of care to Rope.
Lawyers for the trader describe a “toxic environment” in which “often bad-tempered” traders would shout across the trading floor and publicly shame Rope if he put a foot wrong. His stress symptoms developed in 2016 and by 2018 he and his three colleagues were trading around 3,500 different stocks. “An exceptionally large number of companies for such a small team to cover,” they said in documents filed at the High Court in February.
Rope’s suit “describes a generally pressured environment, which is the unavoidable reality of the work of a City trader,” UBS’s lawyers said in its legal defense.
“It is an environment that he not only coped but thrived in for decades, giving the bank a good basis for its belief that he was psychologically able to manage the demands of the role,” they said in the papers filed last month.
UBS did say that shouting sometimes occurred on the trading floor and that the language of traders was “intemperate” from time to time. They denied Rope was drowning in work and said the bank wasn’t aware of any incidents where he was publicly shamed or shouted at in an unprofessional or vindictive manner.
Rope’s lawyer declined to comment on the suit. UBS also declined to comment.
“The Shooting Party”
By the beginning of 2018, Rope was experiencing “exhaustion, finding it increasingly difficult to sleep, was no longer able to socialize, and was focusing all his efforts on functioning solely for work,” his lawyers said.
The 53-year-old trader and his team frequently discussed “their disillusionment with management,” they said.
Rope’s lawyers said the team were “rudderless and unrepresented,” a feeling that was exacerbated by a group of managers known as “The Shooting Party,” who would often leave the office on Fridays in Winter to go shooting, according to the court filing.
UBS said in its defense papers that “disillusionment and discontent with management during times of structural change and rationalization is common in the workplace.”
In April 2018 Rope made two trading errors that brought him to tears in front of colleagues. He had “spent the past several months trying to keep on top of a punishing workload, and learning to deal with FX and the shambolic FX system,” his lawyers said.
He was signed off on sick leave and has not been considered fit to return since.
Lawyers for UBS said it only has a record of one error and that according to Rope’s colleagues he only showed “distress” the following day, when he was told to stop work and seek medical assistance. The breakdown was a “complete shock” to his co-workers, they said.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.