Mazars faces 'discrimination' lawsuit over XTX Markets snub

26 August 2022 2 min. read
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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 claims, Mazars refused work with the firm as 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 controlling stake in the firm, which he is co-CEO of alongside former Goldman Sachs Partner Zar Amrolia.

While Gerko was born in Russia, and retains Russian citizenship, the company has been publicly outspoken in its condemnation of the war in Ukraine. It has so far committed some £40.6m in humanitarian relief to Ukraine, and criticised the Russian government – criticism which called on the UK to expand its sanctions list.

Mazars faces 'discrimination' lawsuit over XTX Markets snub

XTX Markets is not itself subject of sanctions, however, accounting and consulting firm Mazars has reportedly refused to work with the firm. The company declined to provide payroll services to subsidiary, XTX Markets Technologies, due to its Russian-British billionaire owner. As reported by the Financial Times, this has seen the trading firm file a case of discrimination against Mazars, which it claims has broken its own public policy, as well as breaching UK equality legislation.

An email to XTX Markets from Mazars Partner Erick Gillier seen by the press reportedly explained the firm was “perfectly aware of the UK, EU, and US sanctions programs,” but noted Mazars had taken a decision beyond that “not to accept any new clients with Russian ownership.” This does not seem to have satisfied XTX Markets, however.

Beyond the fact the firm claims Mazars’ public policy only states that it will not serve any sanctioned companies or individuals,  in filing the case, XTX Markets is looking for a declaration that Mazars’ breached the UK’s Equalities Act. Beyond that, it is not seeking damages, or a court order that Mazars’ provide services for the firm.

The case is a twist in the months-long move of the professional services sector away from working for Russian-owned clients. In the wake of the Russian military’s occupation of Eastern Ukraine, the relationships many top accountants had had with pro-Putin oligarchs drew public scrutiny. As such, a growing list of firms have since axed offices in Russia, and declined work from companies with Russian ownership.