Professional services firm Mazars is being sued by XTX Markets, which alleges the audit and advisory group discriminated against its founder, Alexander Gerko. According to the allegations, Mazars refused to work with the company because Gerko is a Russian citizen.
Launched in 2015, XTX Markets is an algorithmic trading company, based in London. Founder Alexander Gerko is a mathematician who has lived and worked in the UK since 2006 and retains a majority stake in the company, of which he is co-CEO alongside former Goldman Sachs partner Zar Amrolia.
While Gerko was born in Russia and retains Russian citizenship, the company has been publicly forthcoming in its condemnation of the war in Ukraine. He has so far committed some £40.6m in humanitarian aid to Ukraine and slammed the Russian government – critics who have called on the UK to expand its sanctions list.
XTX Markets is not subject to sanctions itself, however accounting and consulting firm Mazars has reportedly refused to work with the firm. The company refused to provide payroll services to its subsidiary, XTX Markets Technologies, because of its Russian-British billionaire owner. As the Financial Times reported, this saw the trading company file a discrimination claim against Mazars, which it says breached its own public policy, as well as UK equality law.
An email to XTX Markets from Mazars partner Erick Gillier, seen by the press, allegedly explained that the company was “fully aware of the UK, EU and US sanctions programs “, but noted that Mazars had made a decision beyond that “not to accept new customers”. with Russian ownership. This, however, does not seem to have satisfied XTX Markets.
Beyond the company’s assertion that Mazars’ public policy only states that it will not serve any sanctioned company or individual, in filing the case, XTX Markets is seeking a statement that Mazars breached UK Equality Act . Beyond that, it’s not about seeking damages or a court order for Mazars to provide services to the company.
The case is a twist in the professional services industry‘s months-long move away from working for Russian-owned clients. Following the Russian military occupation of eastern Ukraine, the relationships that many top accountants had had with pro-Putin oligarchs came to public attention. As such, a growing list of companies have since cut offices in Russia and refused work from Russian-owned businesses.