On phone call, Bank of America exec rejects staff concerns about coming back to work amid virus

April 10, 2020

Your money or your life: Some U.S. employers are so concerned about the bottom line that they are ignoring the fears of staff members about getting back to work amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

And now one of the worst management-level offenders has been caught in the act:  A recording of a top Bank of America executive complaining about the effect of the coronavirus on his staff’s work-ethic has been leaked to CNBC.

According to the cable news network, Fabrizio Gallo, global head of Equities, told top-level colleagues during a March 25 conference call that staff productivity comes before personal comfort and the wish to work from home. He noted on the call that “We cannot provide orderly markets” with people working from home.

Although 95% of employees currently are conducting trades from home, the bank is considering when to ask them to return to their office desks. Gallo noted on the call that “We cannot provide orderly markets” with people working from home.

Gallo told those on the call there would be “special circumstances” for those with underlying illnesses—singling out one staffer with a compromised immune system from a battle with cancer —but he made it abundantly clear that everyone wouldn’t get the same treatment. “Of course, we are going to entertain special cases but not the ‘I don’t feel comfortable, sorry.’ It doesn’t work that way over the long term.”

He pointed out that long-term employees, especially, must take the needs of the firm into consideration—and even hinted at demotions and layoffs in the tape received by CNBC, should “people decide they don’t want to be in a critical function.”

“So, people have to understand that too,” he said. “You cannot on one hand say you cannot trust the firm and on the other hand get the money from the firm, for a long period of time if you are in a critical function. Now if people decide they don’t want to be in a critical function we can have that conversation too. Every single person in this office right now has a family. Every single person in this office right now has children. Every single person in this office right now has elderly parents. Some are very far away, some are here. Every single person in this office is worrying about it.”

He further threatened, ““There’s a balance there between critical mass in the office and not critical mass in the office. If you’re deemed critical and you decide to stay at home then we’ll just take your access away—no problem, after a certain period of time. I assume people when they’re staying at home, they are self-quarantining? Are they’re going out for a walk? They’re going to the supermarket? So, you can catch it at the supermarket. You can catch it at the CVS. You can catch it walking next to a person.”

In response to the CNBC report, a Bank of America spokesperson said: “The premise of this conversation is that, after a period of time and the government and health officials have said that it is safe, people will need to come back to work and we know people will have personal challenges and we will need to help them plan for that. This conversation took place two weeks ago when we were establishing new protocols about employees executing trades from home. We have 95% of our people working from home in the trading businesses including some of our most senior traders.”

Research contact: @CNBC

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