Clearing up the controversy

Clearing up the controversy

  • Export:

 Isf: What happened between you and Fortis?
There was a difference of opinion over where GSLA would be situated within the bank. In early December 2004 the decision was made that we would be separated from the information bank. We (myself and Olaf Ephraim) questioned the rationale behind it. The bank had several ideas of what GSLA should be. The concept we had built was important and this was going to change. We had discussions with the bank about the change of focus, but an agreement was not found and the decision was made on March 31 2005 to let us go. Olaf and I were told the next day we were no longer needed - we packed up and left the same day.

Isf: What did you do next?
Our next course of action was to find an amicable form of separation. But we were not successful and we ended up in court.   

Isf: So you had a disagreement about compensation?
FV:  All I can say is that we did not meet in the middle. Let's be clear, at first both parties wanted to settle this simply. However, we did not succeed and fairly quickly we ended up in a court case. Normally a situation like this does not end up in court. I do not think this should have gone to court.  This is not good for anyone. The bank is hurting, business is hurting and Olaf and I are hurt and damaged by this.

Isf: Before this change of philosophy were you happy at Fortis? Were you looking for another job?
I was happy and was not looking for another job. GSLA had been good to me and I liked the business.

Isf: Frank, there have been many rumours circulating around your departure from Fortis. Let's clear them up. Were you embezzling money?
That is totally untrue and totally bullshit.

Isf: There was a compliance investigation. What were its findings?
FV: The investigation came out with nothing - not one single transaction received negative analysis. The stories that came out in the newspapers were out of my control and out of the control of Fortis.

Isf: Why did you not defend yourself by making a public statement?
FV: I was hearing so many fabricated stories that all I could do was be silent, go numb. Why do I have to explain myself? People are inherently suspicious but in my case there was nothing to be suspicious about. I do understand what you are saying about making a statement. But at times I have a tendency to act a bit primal and with the amount of anger I had in me, it was probably better I did not go public. Believe me, there was nothing dubious going on. I have been falsely accused. I do not want to be a public figure. If I had a choice I would not have contacted you to have this discussion and bring up all this again. But unfortunately I do not have this luxury. I have to speak my mind before I can move forward.

Isf: Do you think your reputation has been damaged by this court case?
FV: I do not believe that my reputation should have been damaged by the court case itself, but I am afraid it has due to the sequence of events and the actions Fortis took. We were suspended by Fortis at the time the compliance investigation was still open. Combine that with the events during the court case and people will think "where there is smoke there is fire". You just have to look at one of your earlier questions about embezzling money.... Apparently that is just one of the rumours... It is however important to note the compliance investigation revealed nothing wrong in regards to any of our or GSLA's dealings. Fortis has confirmed that in writing to us, so it is fair to say that my reputation is damaged unnecessarily.

Isf: When do you think the court case will be finished?
FV: I hope to hell there will not be any further court cases. I hope within the next month and a half this will be resolved, but I do need Fortis to cooperate.

Isf: How do you feel now about Fortis?  Any hard feelings?
FV: I have no hard feelings, except maybe for the reputation issues. However, I prefer a situation where we can let bygones be bygones, water under the bridge. I would like to be in a business relationship where we can make money off each other. At the end of the day this is a business.

Isf: Would you ever go back to Fortis?
FV: Never say never, but it is highly unlikely.

Isf: What is your next move? Do you have to wait until the court case is done before you can look for another job?
The question is should I look for another job with another financial institution, or a hedge fund, or should I start looking for something on my own? I am not sure but it is not game over for me yet.

Isf: Would you feel a bit nervous starting with another big financial institution after what happened
with Fortis?

FV: No I would not because even if you have your own product, you still have investors and dealings with banks. There is always some type of outside influence.

Isf: Do you think this whole situation with Fortis has given you a new perspective on things?
FV: This situation has made me realise that I did like what I was doing, and I do miss it. Fortis has been the only employer I have had in the securities financing world and it had been fun.

Isf: On that note, let's move away from the fun of legalities.
Hey never say legalities aren't fun. I am a tax lawyer by trade.

Isf: You have been off a while, what have you been doing in that time?
One of the good things that has come out of this situation is that I have been able to spend more time with my wife and kids. I also spent some time on holiday in France and have been looking into setting up my own business.

Isf: What is the biggest fallacy you have heard regarding securities lending?
FV: The biggest fallacy in this business is that it is still considered a back office operation. Securities finance is a beautiful business to be in. You can still make a lot of money in this business. It is an ever-changing environment and competitive edge is something you can create.

Isf: If you had not gone into securities finance what else would you have done?
FV: I have always wanted to run a restaurant.

Isf:  What kind of food?
I would have loved to do Asian fusion. I was born on the wrong side of the world from a food perspective. Another thing I would love to do is own a safari business in Africa. I fell in love with Africa the first time I went.

Isf: If you had 50 pounds in your pocket right now, how would you spend it?
I would buy a nice printed shirt. I do not have that many extravagances, but I do like to shop.

Isf: What is the key to a successful family life?
Getting fired! And you can quote me on that.

Isf: What is the most important lesson you have learnt to date?
FV: Everything is relative. My story is relative to someone else's who may not have that much money and a family to support. I am still fortunate.

Isf: Any regrets?
FV: Always. I do take regrets into account. I believe you must pay attention to regrets otherwise you will never learn from them.

Isf: Do you have a mentor or someone you respect?
FV: It would have to be my wife. She has always come through for me,especially this past year.

Isf: How do you relax away fromthe office?
FV: I relax in a number of ways including tennis and going to the gym. As I said earlier being around my family more is great. I appreciate the time better. When I was working and went on holiday I was always reachable. My mobile was always on. If I went on a holiday for three weeks, I would be working for at least one.

Isf: What was the last book you read?                                                                                                                   FV: The last book I read was Angels and Demons by Dan Brown.

Isf: If you could describe securities lending in five words what would they be?
Global Securities Lending and Arbitrage. I honestly believe without the arbitrage securities lending is worthless.

Isf: What is your favourite film?
FV: I don't have one film that comes to mind. I love watching Tarzan with the kids. It is the only movie I can watch over again.

Isf: Living or dead, is there anyone you would like to speak to?
FV: I would like to speak to my grandfather who died when I was 15. I would like to ask him why he gave up. He died of cancer and up until he got sick he was one of the strongest men I have ever known. He was a coal transporter and he had a grip that was absolutely amazing. He passed away very quickly after he was diagnosed and I would want to ask him why he gave up. I would also like to ask him how he would have dealt with some of the things I have gone through over the past year.

Isf: Frank, why did you want to do this interview?
FV: I wanted to do this interview to put a stop to some of the things that have been said in the market about me and my situation with Fortis. I would like to specifically say again I wish GSLA all the best. And hopefully this will end all the bullshit stories.    

For more details on the history of how the Fortis GSLA programme became GSFG, see page 44 

  • Export:

Related Articles