The trial of an investment banker is underway in the United Kingdom after an inflight incident in a British Airways business class cabin in 2019. William Clegg is standing trial after allegedly assaulting five BA flight attendants during a flight from California to the United Kingdom.
A cocktail of sleeping pills, wine, and Baileys
After boarding the August 2019 flight from San Jose to Heathrow, Mr Clegg swallowed two tablets of a sleeping pill called zolpidem and one zopiclone tablet. He washed the pills down with a few glasses of wine and a couple of baby bottles of Baileys.
“This led, the Crown will say, to him acting bizarrely,” the prosecutor told the court this week. “He went to the galley, the kitchen area, and started throwing chocolate bars at passengers who were sleeping at the time. He said he wanted to go outside to see his friend. He was told by a flight attendant that we were 38,000 feet in the air.
“His behaviour got to the point, and again this was another bizarre action. He tried on one occasion, he lifted his t-shirt and tried to put it over the head of a member of the cabin crew. This behaviour led to the cabin crew taking the decision that they needed to restrain him.”
When the cabin crew attempted to settle Clegg and take him down to the back of the plane, his behavior ramped up from annoying to aggressive.
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Not guilty plea to five assault charges
The prosecution alleges five counts of assault. This includes throwing one British Airways male flight attendant to the floor, trying to headbutt a female flight attendant, and striking two more male flight attendants and a female flight attendant.
Unsurprisingly, police met the plane on arrival in London, and Mr Clegg was arrested. In his trial, Mr Clegg claims he was unaware wine, sleeping pills, and planes don’t always mix well. On this basis, Mr Clegg is pleading not guilty.
Some well-paid investment bankers do fly a lot. Clegg took around 90 international flights a year until his ill-fated 2019 flight. Arguably, such an experienced flyer should have known better. Most in-flight bankers keep their heads down. Others occasionally make the headlines for non-merger-related reasons.
Investment bankers behaving badly inflight
Most famously, Wall Street investment banker Gerard Finneran was flying from Buenos Aires to New York on United Airlines in 1995 when he became intoxicated and assaulted flight attendants.
Mr Finneran then entered the first class cabin (which on this flight was hosting some bona fide VIPs), climbed onto the service trolley and defecated on it. He cleaned himself up with some first class linen napkins before wiping them all over the cabin.
Later, in court, Finneran claimed he had diarrhea. Twenty-five years later, there’s still argument whether that’s a mitigating or exacerbating factor. The incident was described as the low water mark of bad inflight behavior.
More recently, a Citi FIG Managing Director came off a flight from Auckland and got into a brawl with immigration officers at Sydney Airport. Well fueled up on scotch, Tom Cribb made an ass of himself on the flight before the fracas in immigration. Like Mr Clegg, he also ended up in court and out of investment banking.
The trial of Mr Clegg at Isleworth Crown Court continues.