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Tribunal not impressed with how FNB debarred employee for the second time

Tribunal not impressed with how FNB debarred employee for the second time

The Financial Services Tribunal has expressed its disapproval of the way in which FNB debarred a representative – and it set aside the employee’s debarment for a second time.

FNB dismissed and debarred the representative, because, it said, she intentionally misled the bank about her hours of work.

The applicant said she was presented with an attendance register while she was dealing with a client. She signed the register without verifying its contents, because she was under pressure to provide a service to the client.

The applicant said she did not defraud or otherwise harm FNB, and, in any event, she did not stand to benefit financially from allegedly manipulating the times on the register.

The first debarment was set aside in March 2020, and FNB debarred the employee a second time, for the same reason, in June 2020.

Addressing the procedure following by FNB, the tribunal noted that the letter sent to the applicant providing reasons for her debarment had seemingly been cut and pasted from a case involving another individual, because “the reasons furnished have no correlation at all with the charges that were pursued by FNB against the applicant”.

It said FNB did not hold a proper fair hearing where the evidence it relied on for the applicant’s debarment could be dealt with. The debarment was the result of FNB’s panel deliberating on the charges and the applicant’s written submissions alone.

It said the applicant’s version before the tribunal was “an elaborate version” of her initial response to FNB when it informed her of its intention to debar her.

“The manner in which the panel dealt with the two versions of the parties is not recorded anywhere. From the record, there is no evaluation of evidence that occasioned or resulted to the finding that the applicant is no longer fit and proper. We therefore conclude that applicant’s version was simply ignored.

“It is startling that the respondent now accepts the version and abides by the decision of the tribunal. We therefore have no grounds of rejecting it as a version that is reasonably probably true.”

The tribunal said the applicant’s conduct had to be serious to impugn her honesty and integrity such that it constituted grounds for debarment. However, it said FNB’s panel had not even attempted to evaluate any evidence that could constitute any proof that the act of dishonesty was committed by the applicant.

The tribunal ruled that FNB’s finding that the applicant was dishonest was unreasonable and unjustified, and it set aside the debarment.

Paul Kruger comments:

The tribunal has recently overturned a number of debarments, many of which concerned acts not related to transgressions that should have resulted in debarments. A number of these concerned contractual issues, which had little to do with the fit and proper requirements for providing financial advice.

The tribunal’s view on the shoddy handling of this case (a cut-and-paste job from a matter involving another individual) is yet another example of how employers have used doubtful tactics to achieve results not related to the matter at hand.

That a leading financial services company has twice bungled a process that should have been a straightforward disciplinary matter is of great concern.

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