Barclays investor calls for boss’s removal over Epstein links

Shareholder Ed Bramson says Jes Staley’s re-election as CEO of bank would be ill-advised

Barclays is under renewed pressure from a top shareholder who is demanding the removal of its chief executive over his ties to the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Ed Bramson said in an open letter to the bank’s board that it should take “decisive action” and revoke its unanimous recommendation for Jes Staley’s re-election at the annual shareholder meeting on 7 May.

It is the first time Bramson, through his investment vehicle Sherborne Investors, has called for Staley’s removal. Previously his ire was focused on the investment banking division, which he believes should be scaled back. Sherborne owns a stake of more than 5%.

In the letter, Bramson suggested Staley’s re-election as chief executive would be “extremely ill-advised”. He said: “Barclays disclosed in February that United Kingdom regulators have been investigating, since December 2019, certain characterisations of Staley’s relationship with Epstein and they will doubtless report in due course.

“However, we do not see why it is necessary or appropriate to push this decision off to the regulators when the determination of Staley’s suitability is clearly the board’s responsibility.

“We request and strongly recommend that the bank’s chairman, Nigel Higgins, and the board as a whole rescind their unanimous recommendation to re-elect Staley. We believe that it would be in everyone’s interest to draw a line under this destabilising situation, which has become a circus, as soon as possible. This would allow the company to move forward and focus on more constructive activities.”

This month Barclays confirmed the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) had been investigating Staley since December. It said the inquiry centred on whether Staley had been sufficiently transparent about his relationship with Epstein, who died in prison in August 2019 while awaiting trial on charges of trafficking underage girls.

Staley, who joined Barclays in 2015, has said he developed a relationship with Epstein in 2000 when he became the boss of JP Morgan’s private bank, which counted Epstein among its wealthy customers.

He said his relationship with Epstein had tapered off after he left JP Morgan in 2013, having made a final visit to Epstein’s private Caribbean island with his wife in the final months of 2015.

Bramson is also calling on the board to review the advice it was given by JPMorgan, its corporate broker, and a headhunting firm regarding Staley’s relationship with Epstein before his formal appointment as chief executive in 2015.

“If the advice is found to have been deficient, we believe the Barclays board should terminate all future commercial relationships with these firms forthwith,” his letter said.

JP Morgan declined to comment.

The UK regulatory investigation is understood to have been launched after emails between the two men were handed by JP Morgan to US regulators, who in turn passed them to the UK regulators. Barclays has seen the email exchanges sent to the regulators.

Barclays has said it conducted an internal review and had no concerns over the way the bank’s chief had characterised his dealings with Epstein.

Barclays said on Monday the board’s position had not changed, reiterating its support for Staley’s re-election.

Sherborne said it would vote against Staley’s re-election, regardless of the board’s recommendation. “We hope Higgins and his board will not present a resolution to re-elect Staley. If they do, we will be on record as having voted against it,” Bramson said.

In 2018, Staley was ordered topersonally pay more than £1.1m as a penalty for attempting to unmask a whistleblower. He was fined a total of £642,430 by the FCA and PRA, and Barclays clawed back £500,000 of his bonus over the matter.

Source: The Guardian

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