Remember the ‘Barclays Way’ – the document issued by Barclays’ chairman John McFarlane in July last year about Barclays’ general ethos and business practices? It already seems to have gone a little awry.
As a reminder, the ‘Way’ outlines the purposes, values and behaviours to be expressed by all who work for Barclays in all they do (as shown in the chart below).
However, this week’s court case concerning Richard Boath, Barclays’ former chairman of financial services, suggests the Way can be deviated from.
Boath spent 15 years working for Barclays, rising to senior managing director until he was fired in February this year. His firing came after Barclays saw a statement he made to the Serious Fraud Office in relation to the contentious investigation into Barclays’ £7.3bn emergency cash call in 2008. Without that cash, Barclays probably wouldn’t exist as we know it today. Boath’s alleging that Barclays’ general counsel Bob Hoyt improperly used the statement Boath made to the SFO to fire him him, and that he (Boath) was effectively blowing the whistle. Barclays is strongly denying all of this.
Boath isn’t the first Barclays banker to be fired after allegedly blowing the whistle on wrongdoing. Peter Sivere, a former Barclays’ compliance officer and serial whistleblower was also fired by the bank several years ago, and has since settled out of court.
Boath’s exit is more recent though. And it happened after ‘The Way’ (with its exhortation that Barclays bankers should show courage and say the right thing) was being followed.
Boath’s whistleblowing case is complicated by the fact that Barclays’ £7.3bn cash injection is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. As the Financial Times reported in February, Barclays stands accused of secretly paying the Qataris £346m in 2008, in return for which they ploughed £3.8bn of the £7.3bn into the bank to help save it from collapse. If true, this would have been illegal and the criminal probe being led by the Serious Fraud Office into this aspect of the deal is expected to be concluded early next year. Barclays’ former CEOs Bob Diamond and John Varley, along Roger Jenkins – the banker who orchestrated the cash call (and has since dated Elle Macpherson and invested in a marijuana business), have all been interviewed under caution.
With this case in mind, both the Serious Fraud Office and Barclays have been keen to stop Boath’s statement being heard in public. The SFO has been arguing that it will prejudice its investigation into Barclays’ fundraising and must be heard in private (something unprecedented in the British court system). Barclays has spent this week supporting the SFO in its attempts to keep the case private to prevent details of the Qatari payment leaking out before that court case begins. Boath, in turn, wants his case held in public and has been arguing that he’s happy for sensitive information related to Qatar to be dealt with in a private session.
The upshot is that the week set aside by the employment tribunal to debate Boath’s whistleblowing case has been conveniently taken up with Kafkaesque legal wrangling over both the privacy application and the ‘privacy of the application for the privacy application’ Boath’s actual employment case hasn’t been heard at all. Instead, it looks increasingly likely that the case will be heard next year, after the Qatari case is finished. That’s good news for Barclays, but bad news for Boath as an alleged whistleblower. Is it attuned to the Way? You decide.