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Big questions for Barclays over Jes Staley

Jes Staley denies any wrongdoing regarding Jeffrey Epstein, and the British regulator says there is nothing to suggest that he was aware of Epstein's crimes, but this does not absolve Barclays of the need to answer some difficult questions about its former CEO.

Personally, I think it's striking that having links with a convicted paedophile wasn't thought reason enough to exclude Staley from the role of CEO at a reputationally scarred bank back in 2015. Had Barclays been more careful six years ago, today's tumult could have been avoided. 

What has effectively happened this morning is that Staley has finally run out of lives.  Having become the only person in the history of the markets to have been found guilty of personal misconduct, been fined heavily by his main regulators and had his bonus clawed back by his employer, he still kept his job.

What does this say to rank and file employees at Barclays? As a former employee, I can say that many have long since ceased to react to misconduct in the senior ranks with anything other than a resigned sigh. When Staley gets back to his private yacht, Barclays will probably simply redouble its requirements to get staff to complete more box ticking compliance training. 

The regulators state that "the tone comes from the top," but at Barclays the tone has been off for many years. If you're a Barclays employee, the lesson is clear:  if you're going to violate regulators' rules of conduct or engage in potentially reputationally-damaging relationships, make sure you're high enough up the food chain that you can keep your job, or at least all your bonuses when you're discovered.

Ethan Palmer is the pseudonym of an ex-MD at Barclays. 

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AUTHOREthan Palmer Insider Comment

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