In The News

CEO of Barclays Comes Under Investigation for Trying to Identify a Whistleblower

Although this blog is filled with instances of whistleblowers being awarded huge settlements, there is still a great deal of risk involved in engaging in this protected activity. This was demonstrated last week when financial regulators from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) announced that they were investigating Barclays’ Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jes Staley’s alleged attempts to unmask a whistle-blower at the company. Barclays – a British multinational banking and financial services company headquartered in London – is one of Britain’s top banks. Staley has been accused of attempting to identify the author of a letter written earlier this year by an employee/whistleblower. As a result of these accusations, Barclays’ board engaged the independent law firm Simmons & Simmons, LLP to lead the investigation into Staley’s alleged misconduct. “I am personally very disappointed and apologetic that this situation has occurred, particularly as we strive to operate to the highest possible ethical standards,” Barclays’ chairman John McFarlane said in a statement.

In the past, Barclays has been embroiled in a number of controversies including alleged regulatory misdemeanors. Specifically, its former CEO resigned from the group during a high profile investigation into Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate) rigging. The Libor Scandal involved a series of transactions connected to the bank. The Libor is an interest rate reached by averaging the interest rates at a number of major banks around the world. The outcome of that case was that the bank was fined nearly £290m ($374.68 million USD.) This latest controversy involving Staley began back in June 2016. Two anonymous letters were sent from the US to some of Barclays board members. The letters concerned Tim Main a friend of Staley and a colleague of his when the two worked at JP Morgan.

According to the FCA/PRA investigation, Staley made two attempts to discover the identity of the whistleblower even attempting at one point to utilize the help of a US law enforcement agency. Though Staley has defended his actions by saying that he honestly believed he was entitled to the information, corporate rules regarding whistleblowing are clear. They stipulate that if an informer asks for anonymity a firm must respect the request. However, Staley is said to have violated this rule because he felt that the content of the letters constituted an “unfair attack” on Main. As a result of this, it is speculated that Staley then asked the bank’s information security team to discover the identity of the author on more than one occasion.

Ironically, Staley stated that he would work to strengthen trust in the bank in light of the aforementioned Libor Scandal. In a statement from the bank’s Board, a spokesman defended Staley’s action. “The investigation… found, and the Board has concluded, that Mr. Staley honestly, but mistakenly, believed that it was permissible to identify the author of the letter.” Staley has received a written reprimand and a pay cut from the board as punishment. If you have chosen to disclose wrongdoing it is also advised that you contact a qui tam lawyer. A qui tam attorney can advise you in such matters and will work to protect your rights under the law.