Barclays’ biggest shareholder is trying to apply new pressure to the bank’s chief executive by raising further questions about his relationship with the deceased sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein.
Sky News has seen an email sent this week by an adviser to Sherborne Investors Management – headed by the activist Edward Bramson – to Barclays shareholders which highlights a subpoena issued to JP Morgan, Jes Staley’s former employer, about its dealings with Mr Epstein.
In the email, Georgeson, a firm specialising in proxy solicitation and shareholder engagement, highlighted the subpoena’s demand for “information on the bank’s dealings with Epstein, including all JPM internal documents and correspondence related to investigations / compliance matters on Epstein and associated anti-money laundering issues”.
“It also singles out just one bank employee, requiring JPM to deliver ‘all communications between James E. Staley and Jeffrey E. Epstein regarding his accounts, services, or transactions,” the email added.
The message sent on behalf of Sherborne also referred to the fact that the law firm seeking the information from JP Morgan is called Motley Rice, “who you may remember represented victims of BP plc’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill”.
“As you know, Sherborne has asked several times why Staley didn’t close Epstein’s accounts, despite being urged to do so by the bank’s legal and compliance departments,” it went on.
“As you will see… it looks like we will shortly find out as the US lawyers now have Staley firmly in their sights.”
A Barclays shareholder said the email was “an obvious attempt to keep the pressure on Barclays over Mr Staley’s continued tenure”.
Sherborne has struggled to gain traction with its campaign to force Barclays into a major strategic overhaul since it became a shareholder in 2018.
Mr Bramson saw his request for a board seat overwhelmingly opposed by the bank’s investors, and this year changed tack by focusing on Mr Staley’s links to Epstein, which dated back to 2000 and involved a number of personal and professional meetings.
The City and banking watchdogs are investigating Mr Staley’s characterisation of his relationship with Mr Staley, with Barclays board members keen for them to conclude their probes swiftly.
Although there has been persistent media speculation that Mr Staley is to step down, people close to the bank insist that no announcement about his future is imminent.
The depth of the coronavirus crisis’s impact on the balance sheets of British banks means regulators are unlikely to see instability in the leadership of one of the country’s biggest lenders.
Sherborne, which holds a 6% stake in Barclays, declined to comment on the email’s contents or its adviser’s offer to shareholders to “talk about the legal proceedings in more detail”.
Barclays declined to comment.