The latest must-read banker chat room debacle

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Typically speaking, if a chat room conversation between bankers goes viral, it’s terrible news for the firm. The latest, taking place amongst HSBC bankers, paints a more opaque view of the bank. It involves a bold and seemingly immoral ask, followed by some outrage and a little by-the-book tattling.

The chat room talk, leaked to the New York Post, stars senior banker Robert Domanko, head of HSBC’s institutional equity derivatives business. Domanko reportedly asked traders within the firm to sweeten a swaps offer to a client, while still keeping it slightly below a rival’s bid, because the bank had what he perceived to be a bit of leverage: HSBC got the client’s son an internship.

First, Domanko asked the traders to improve the price of the deal by a few basis points, without offering a reason. When asked, he openly divulged. “To look competitive …maybe he gives it to us if we are close but not the best price…jenn spent 2months helping the clients son get an internship,” he wrote in December 2013, according to the Post. “Chance he gives to us if close, but not best offer.”

This, if it wasn’t obvious, is the shame-inducing part of the story. However, HSBC can at least feel good about the response from the other traders in the chat room. “Amazing,” one wrote. “Are you kidding me on that helping the clients son get an internship?” wrote another. The bankers then sent the transcript to HSBC’s human resources department.

The deal never happened and no laws were broken, but for a bank that’s been battling an image problem, avoiding headlines is a clear goal. A spokesperson for the bank didn’t comment to the Post on what if any discipline Domanko faced.

Perhaps the weirdest part of the story is that one of the traders said that the son of the client didn’t even intern at HSBC. Banks’ efforts to limit the use of chat rooms can’t come fast enough.

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