The Netherlands Bankers' Association Integrity Code (Integriteitscode van de Nederlandse Banken: the ‘Code’) requires that employees who apply for a job at another bank should submit an integrity statement from the previous employer.

In this case, a bank refused to issue an integrity statement. According to the bank, the employee (sometimes at the cost of others) had put financial targets above all else and his approach to the management team was manipulative. For example, contrary to internal rules, the employee allowed friendly relations to exceed the bank overdraft limit; tried to effectuate the transfer of insurance contracts to another branch such to secure the sale target; and forced an account manager to book certain unrealized income as realized turnover. Both the court of first instance and the Court of Appeal ruled that the bank wrongly refused to issue an integrity statement. In cassation, however, the Supreme Court overturned that judgment and ruled that as regards whether a bank can refuse to issue an integrity statement, all the relevant actions of the employee should be viewed together instead of separately. The question in this appeal after referral of the Supreme Court is whether the bank employee acted ethically within the meaning of the Code.

The Court of Appeal considered that the Code’s purpose is that for the proper functioning of the banking system in the economic and social system, banks and their employees should be ethical. This integrity is not limited to the actual performance of banking activities as integrity does not relate primarily to the result of conduct, but rather to the attitude as a result. Consequently, an employee who in the private sphere is guilty of fraudulent practices on the Internet, (also) infringes the relevant banking business integrity. This means that not every form of leadership that is not desired by the bank can be considered dishonest within the meaning of the Code. However, a style of leadership that involves manipulating, lying, and favouring friends and relations, can, as such, be characterized as dishonest.

In light of the above, viewed together, the Supreme Court has ruled that the employee’s conduct was unethical within the meaning of the Integrity Code.