Jonathan Burrows, a BlackRock fund manager for 20 years, has been banished from the finance industry by Britain’s financial regulator. The reason? Well, Mr. Burrows was commuting to work from the East Sussex to London — a one hour and 22-minute trek that should have cost him 21 pounds per trek. Instead, he boarded the train at a station that had no ticket barriers and then exited the train in London using a London train card, and all for about seven pounds. Mr. Burrows settled with the train company for 43,000 pounds and left BlackRock.
Mr. Burrows issued a statement indicating that what he did was “foolish.” He added that he only pulled the dodger stunt a few times and agreed to the high settlement to protect his identity. The dogged British press found him anyway. The financial markets regulator called his conduct “not fit and proper” for the financial industry.
Experts have differing views. A Citibank banker who teaches at a London business school said, “This is an extreme case. However, if you had asked me what fit and proper meant this morning I would have said it was honesty, integrity, and competence in business affairs and personal finances. I would never have dreamt they involved your train fare.”
The Barometer adds only that a thief is a thief is a thief. If they round the corners on paying their way on the Sussex train, they will round the corners on portfolios, statements, actions, timing, and on and on. They never do just one thing. Integrity is either there or it is not. And breaking the law is not a way to demonstrate one’s ethical values. There are not financial industry ethics and personal ethics — they are one and the same. Perhaps we should be checking into the train and subway hoppers to find the next market offenders.