Barclays, Former CEO Criminally Charged Over Qatar Fundraising

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Two familiar names are in the news this morning, after the UK’s Serious Fraud Office filed criminal charges against Barclays Plc and four former executives, including former CEO John Varley, for conspiracy to commit fraud regarding the bank’s 2008 capital raising from Qatar. The SFO said Tuesday that former Chief Executive Officer John Varley, former chairman of investment banking for the Middle East Roger Jenkins, ex-deputy head of investment banking Richard Boath and ex-wealth chief Thomas Kalaris face charges along with the bank.

The SFO allegations focus on how Barclays arranged two capital injections from Qatari investors during the 2008 financial meltdown, when the bank raised £11.8 billion ($15 billion) to prop it up and avoid a state bailout unlike peers RBC and Lloyds. Barclays said it paid £322 million in “advisory services” to Qatari investors, which wasn’t initially disclosed after the capital was raised. The SFO charged the individuals and the bank with conspiracy to commit fraud. Two individuals, including its former Chief Executive John Varley, were also charged with the provision of unlawful financial assistance. Additionally, the SFO’s charges also relate to a $3 billion loan facility Barclays made to the State of Qatar acting through the ministry of economy and finance in November 2008, just after its second capital raise.

The WSJ adds that the case marks the first time that top executives at a U.K. bank face criminal charges for their actions during the financial crisis. If Barclays is found guilty it faces a fine but wouldn’t lose its banking license. Barclays said in a statement it is “considering its position in relation to these developments.”

More from the WSJ:

The SFO’s case involves a cadre of Barclays top executives who steered the bank at the time. Mr. Varley, who was the bank’s chief executive until 2011 and Roger Jenkins, a former top investment bank executive who played a key role in orchestrating the capital raises, were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and unlawful financial assistance. Thomas Kalaris, who used to run the bank’s wealth division, and Richard Boath, who headed the bank’s European financial institutions group, were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud.

 

The Barclays case is a major test for the SFO, which has in recent years failed to successfully prosecute a number of high profile bribery and corruption cases. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May recently pledged to fold the SFO into another crime fighting agency.

More headaches for Barclays may emerge on the other side of the ocean too: the DOJ and SEC are both investigating the payments made to Middle Eastern officials. Separately PCP Capital Partners, a private-equity group, is suing Barclays for $1 billion alleging it made “sham payments” to the Middle Eastern investors. PCP, which helped organize Abu Dhabi’s investment in Barclays in 2008, also alleges that Barclays lent Qatar investors $3 billion to invest back into the bank. Barclays has previously denied this.

While not implicated personally, the case is another distraction for Barclays’s current CEO, former JPM banker Jes Staley, as he attempts to clean up the bank. Staley himself is currently under investigation by U.K. regulators for trying to identify a whistleblower at the bank.

The market’s reaction to the news has been sanguine with Barclays stock barely ticking lower.

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