Punched, kicked and burned by bullies: the daily abuse suffered by City workers

Survey discloses horrific scale of harassment suffered in the 'City culture' - but only a quarter of victims dare make a formal complaint
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The Independent Online

Most people might assume harassment at work happens to women, not men. Mark Moore knows differently.

It began with name-calling, the usual harmless joshing suffered by the new boy. But it ended with a daily ordeal of punches, kicks and cigarettes being burned into his skin.

Mr Moore still doesn't know why - jealousy perhaps, or refusing to "join in" and behave badly with the others. But the treatment is all the more surprising because it was inflicted on a high-flying City trader in the Square Mile of London where international investment banks and finance houses ply their trade.

Mr Moore's experience is far from unique. A survey of more than half of the analysts, traders and brokers - some of the City's top earners - said they had been bullied at work or knew a colleague who had been victimised.

But only 26 per cent of bullying victims said they made a formal complaint, with 40 per cent admitting they took abuse to be "part of City culture".

In a place where people with no qualifications can earn millions in a matter of months and fortunes are made and lost with the touch of a button, many City workers say ritual humiliation and physical abuse is a price worth paying.

The survey, part of a television documentary, has lifted the lid on the sexual harassment, verbal bullying and physical abuse that has become so endemic in the City that most workers believe it them as acceptable working practices.

The City Exposed found men as well as women are subjected to systematic bullying that drives many out of their jobs, and some to mental breakdown.

When Mr Moore landed a job on the Liffe (London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange), trading floor at the age of 21, he thought his dreams had come true.

Almost instantly, he was earning £50,000 a month, taking Caribbean holidays and six-figure bonuses.

But then the bullying began.

He said: "The first week I was there, I went to talk to another broker and someone from the trading pit looked up at me and said, in front of everyone, "You are the ugliest fucking cunt I have ever seen; you must be some sort of gurner."

"Everyone just laughed but I felt humiliated. From then on, everyone called me gurner. I tried to laugh it off, but it just went on and on."

When Mr Moore failed to rise to the verbal bullying and goading, his colleagues began to resort to physical violence. "I would get punched and kicked as I walked past people's desks," he said.

"They would burn me with their cigarettes or throw coffee over my suit. When I went into the toilets, they would smack my head against the wall.

"Part of it was jealousy, I think, because I was making a lot of money but some of it was just like schoolboy bullying - they did it for fun, for a laugh. They were making millions of pounds and they thought they could do anything.

"It went on all day, every day. They would sit around, waiting for me to come into work so they could start on me again.

"Other people joined in out of relief that it wasn't them. It came from more senior people, but people more junior than me looked to them and would start on me too."

Mr Moore made three complaints, but nothing was done.

"I was told to go through the proper complaint channels, which meant going to the trading pit supervisor, but even he called me gurner," he said.

"When I complained, he came back the next day and said he had taken my complaint to the committee but they had decided it wasn't 'practicable' to do anything about it."

After three years of daily harassment, Mr Moore attempted suicide and had a mental breakdown. He has been unable to work for the past eight years, and instead of £50,000 a month, he has £200 in benefits to spend after he has paid the rent on his council flat. "I feel like my life and my heart have been broken," he said.

"That was the only job I ever wanted to do, and they forced me out of that, drove me to a nervous breakdown and have left me with no future."

The City's 300,000 workers earn £23bn a year for their employers - and of course, themselves. Many are on relatively modest salaries - Mark's basic pay was £30,000 a year - but earn most of their income from performance-related bonuses paid from a pool allocated to teams of traders. If one person in the team does badly, it affects the bonuses of their colleagues.

Marina Sorenson was pretty sure she could handle the famously macho atmosphere of the City when she joined a London brokerage firm after completing an MBA course.

But, after months of harassment and abuse, she quit, shocked at the level of bullying and the way it was tolerated.

"It was very aggressive; their attitude towards me was verbally threatening," she said.

"I was actually scared of my team, especially my boss. I think it's a question of a lot of boys being together in one playground and being able to do what they want without a lot of supervision. The abuse was unrelenting. "I would be told I was a "fucking twat" and "why the fuck did they hire me in the first place".

"[My boss] said people on the team had complained to him about the fact that if he had to hire a female in the first place, which they weren't happy about, why didn't he hire some young thing they could go out and have some fun with - meaning to go out and shag."

She said a lull in work meant pornography being called up on computers; if a woman walked past in a short skirt, hundreds of traders would bang their phone handsets up and down on the desk at once.

Another trader, Julia Notaro, says office punch-ups are commonplace between men, while women run a gauntlet of lecherous abuse every time they walk into an office.

"These men come into the office and they only really see women as whores and tarts and slappers," she said. "I've worked alongside these people and they're pigs, absolute pigs.

"Bullying goes on every day. If there was someone getting bullied in the dealing room, if it was a quiet day and the senior dealers decided to pick on someone, no one ever stepped in and helped the person being picked on. Everybody put their heads down, just quite glad it wasn't them."

Tola Ogundimu, a lawyer who has dealt with some City harassment cases, says - in an atmosphere where money talks - people are prepared to keep quiet about bullying.

"The reason they have been able to get away with it for a long time has been that there was possibly a tacit agreement that because you were earning such large amounts of money, you would put up with behaviour which you might not ordinarily put up with."

Isabella Olleotto, was working as a waitress in a city wine bar when some of the traders who drank there persuaded her to become one of them.

She said: "You get adrenaline and you really, really want to make money. They really feel that, because they have the money, they can do whatever they want.

But she left her job after the stress and bullying became too much. "I started to be physically ill. I was sweating. When I was coming home I was crying a lot.

"I think I was forced out."

Ms Ogundimu believes the tide is beginning to turn, with more people prepared to sue the big banks over harassment.

In July, one of the City's biggest companies, Cantor Fitzgerald, was ordered to pay nearly £1m in compensation to a former employee after he endured months of bullying.

Steven Horkulak told how his boss screamed obscenities at him, threatened him with physical violence and humiliated him in front of colleagues.

But many people see no reason why the Square Mile should adapt - and revel in the machismo of the trading floor.

Shaun Springer, a former broker who now runs a City head-hunting agency, said: "Why should it be changed?

"If you cannot stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

"This is a Darwinian city - it is survival of the fittest. If you are not fit enough to survive, you will be killed off and you will be killed off quickly."

THE CITY TREATMENT

JULIE BOWER

Schroder Securities paid £1.4m to Julie Bower last year after she accused the company of sexual discrimination and unequal pay. A tribunal heard how the career of Ms Bower, 36, a successful former drinks sector analyst, had been summed up by an executive as "had cancer, been a pain, now pregnant".

LOUISE BARTON

Three months ago, Louise Barton, 53, a former media analyst with the investment bank Investec Henderson Crosthwaite, sued the company for sex discrimination and equal pay alleging she was paid half of the £2m given to a male colleague for the same work, despite her seniority. She reached a "confidential" settlement.

ANDREA MADARASSY

Andrea Madarassy, 38, a former executive at the investment bank Nomura International, claimed she was victimised and sexually discriminated against when she was pregnant. She also saidshe was paid smaller bonuses compared to her male counterparts. An appeal hearing will take place in February.

LAURENT WEINBERGER

Two years ago, Laurent Weinberger, an employee at the City brokers Tullett & Tokyo Liberty, was told by managers to dress in a Nazi uniform as a "penalty" for being late for work. The trader, whose grandmother died at Auschwitz, saidhe had suffered months of anti-Semitic abuse. Mr Weinberger, 35, received more than £100,000 in an out-of-court settlement.

PHILIP KARAM

Philip Karam was awarded about £200,000 in a settlement with his former employers at the investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston for alleged race discrimination. Pakistan-born Mr Karam was told "he might end up like Stephen Lawrence" if he pursued a race discrimination case.

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