Costly lie | Citibank employee sacked for claiming partner's lunch on business expenses

Citibank employee sacked for claiming partner's lunch on business expenses

Citibank has won an employment tribunal against one of its former employees who claimed they were unfairly dismissed for expensing their partner’s lunch.

Szabolc Fekete, a senior associate for EMEA regulatory exam management, who had been working at the bank for eight years, was dismissed after managers started to question his expenses from a work trip to Amsterdam last July.

Despite being below the €100 allowance, those approving his expenses challenged the fact his receipts contained two sandwiches, two coffees and another drink. Upon this, an investigation was conducted into Fekete’s expenses.

Initially, the former Citi employee claimed all items were for himself, saying the coffees were ‘small’ and the other sandwich was meant for his dinner later in the day.

"All my expenses are within the €100 daily allowance. Could you please outline what your concern is as I don’t think I have to justify my eating habits to this extent," Fekete wrote to Citi, the tribunal heard.

After further investigation, Fekete eventually confirmed that the other expensed items had been for his partner who joined him on the trip.

Fekete told Citi at a disciplinary meeting that he had been going through personal issues, including the death of his grandmother and mental health problems, and that medical leave had impacted why he gave false information, the tribunal heard.

Citi dismissed Fekete, who was reportedly to be promoted within the firm, on the grounds that he misrepresented his expense claims, a decision the employee decided to take to court.

But the tribunal ruled that Citi’s decision to dismiss Fekete should be upheld on the grounds he misled the company when asked who the expensed items were for. A Citibank spokesperson said the company is “pleased” with the ruling.

Employees and expenses

The Business Spender Sentiment Survey from Center found that 70% of corporate cardholders still use their personal cards for business expenses. Wthin this, 25% said they use their personal cards because their corporate card isn’t accepted everywhere.

Just under half (49%) of workers said they have to use personal cards for work expenses, either because they hadn’t been given a company card or their employer doesn’t have a corporate card scheme.

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Almost 80% of respondents said they agree that employees like to pay with personal cards to obtain points, yet only 52% agreed with the statement “it’s reasonable for companies to ask employees to use personal cards to pay for business expenses and wait for reimbursement.”

As employees face personal and financial pressures due to the cost-of-living crisis, businesses must recognise the potential strain of expecting their staff to pay for company-related costs and expensing them later, potentially setting a worker back financially unexpectedly. HR practitioners should take this into account when sending staff on work trips, as this may be an unseen stress for staff.

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