Barclays boss Jess Staley faces City after whistleblower scandal

London Letter: Scourge of bankers Andrew Tyrie steps down after ‘exhilarating’ career

Jes Staley, CEO  Barclays bank. Photograph: Reuters

Jes Staley, CEO Barclays bank. Photograph: Reuters

 

Barclays’ chief executive Jess Staley faces the City this week for the first time since the scandal erupted over his ill-advised attempts to unmask a whistleblower at the bank.

The Barclays boss is due to report the bank’s first quarter results on Friday, but the figures are likely to be overshadowed by further questions over his conduct in the affair – and the potential fallout for the bank.

Despite being warned off, Staley persisted in attempting to discover the identity of the author of letters containing allegations of a personal nature against Tim Pain, a senior banker who had recently been hired by Barclays. The two had worked closely together at JP Morgan for a number of years and, while Staley admitted he had allowed himself to become too personally involved, he described his conduct in pursuing the whistleblower as “an honest mistake”.

It remains unclear quite why he went to such lengths to unmask the whistleblower – calling in a US law enforcement agency to help – or what he would have done if he had managed to find out who they were.

The Barclays boss was publicly reprimanded over his conduct, which flouted the bank’s code of conduct, and will have his pay docked as punishment, actions the Barclays board appear to believe have drawn a line under the affair.

Hefty fines

While his fellow directors have declared their unanimous support for Staley, the bank’s investors – not to mention City regulators – may not prove quite so understanding. The regulators are now investigating Staley, and the bank, which could face hefty fines. If they decide to throw the book at the Barclays boss, he would be forced to quit, leaving Barclays looking for its fifth chief executive in six years.

Handling the City on Friday may serve as a dress rehearsal for Staley for the main event in a fortnight’s time, when he faces shareholders at the bank’s annual general meeting. They will want to know more about the potential consequences for Barclays of their chief executive’s misjudgment and the further reputational damage it has inflicted on the bank.

Staley is not the only board member likely to attract criticism from investors. Sir Ian Cheshire, who joined the board as a non-executive at the start of April, is also expected to come under fire. The former chief executive of Kingfisher, Cheshire is to become chairman of the new ring-fenced retail bank Barclays is setting up to comply with regulations aimed at protecting customers – and taxpayers – in the event of another banking crisis.

Cheshire is regarded as “over-boarded” – in other words, he has too many jobs. As well as his new role at Barclays, he is chairman of the department stores group Debenhams, which has just embarked on a wide-ranging turnaround plan including a number of store and warehouse closures. He is the senior independent director at Whitbread and is on the board of the French furniture retailer, Maisons du Monde, as well as being chairman of the investment firm Menhaden Capital. He also has a number of government and charity roles.

But it is one of his previous jobs that has raised concerns over Cheshire’s suitability for the Barclays role. For five years, he served as a director of the high street mortgage lender Bradford & Bingley, which had to be bailed out by British taxpayers at the start of the banking crisis, the very outcome ring-fencing the banks is aiming to avert.

Tyrie to step down

Andrew Tyrie, scourge of businessmen, bankers, and chancellors of the exchequer, is to step down at the June general election after 20 years as a member of parliament. The Conservative MP for Chichester has headed the powerful Treasury Select Committee since 2010, gaining widespread respect for his tough and forensically detailed interrogation of those called to Westminster to account for their actions.

As well as the bosses of Britain’s big banks, Tyrie has locked horns with Mark Carney on a number of occasions, notably in the aftermath of the EU referendum, when he accused the governor of the Bank of England of deliberately frightening the voting public over the economic consequences of Brexit.

He recently claimed the head of Carney’s deputy, Charlotte Hogg, who resigned after Tyrie’s committee published a damning report into her failure to reveal a conflict of interest with her brother, who works at Barclays.

In his statement on standing down yesterday Tyrie described his time in parliament as “exhilarating”. That’s probably not the word anyone who has undergone one of his public inquisitions would use. He’ll be missed.

Fiona Walsh is business editor of theguardian.com

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