Tuesday 25 February 2020 3:51 pm

Activist Edward Bramson renews attack on Barclays amid Jeffrey Epstein probe

Activist investor Edward Bramson has renewed his criticism of Barclays after the lender revealed the UK’s financial watchdogs are looking into the relationship between its chief executive and disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

In a letter to shareholders, Bramson – whose Sherborne Investors is the third-biggest Barclays shareholder – said the probe was “another example of governance weakness that has led, inevitably, to the recurrent public disappointments and embarrassments which have plagued Barclays”.

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority are looking into whether Barclays chief executive Jes Staley was truthful about his relationship with Epstein, which he characterised as professional.

Epstein killed himself in August while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges and had previously been convicted of sex offences.

Staley, an American who joined Barclays in 2015, said earlier this month that he was unaware of Epstein’s true nature, and has expressed regret that he had any relationship with the paedophile.

The Barclays CEO maintained contact with Epstein for seven years after the financier was convicted of soliciting prostitution from a minor in 2008. He visited Epstein in Florida in 2009 while he was still serving his sentence.

The bank is preparing to begin the search for a new chief executive to replace Staley, the Financial Times reported yesterday. The CEO has told colleagues he expects to leave by the end of next year.

The Barclays CEO has come under regulatory scrutiny before. In 2018 he was fined £640,000 for trying to unveil the identity of a whistleblower.

Bramson also renewed his call for Barclays to pare back its investment bank, which performs worse than other parts of the business.

Barclays has been contacted for comment.

The activist investor’s letter came after a period of relative calm in the uneasy relationship between Sherborne and Barclays.

Last year, Bramson was defeated in an attempt to secure a seat on the board, from which he would have pushed to cut back Barclays’s investment arm.

Yet the letter indicated that Bramson is set to ramp up his attacks on the lender once again, and requested that Barclays chairman Nigel Higgins meets with Sherborne.

“It has been roughly a year since we had a meeting with the chairman, Mr Higgins. We have requested another meeting with him, as he has now had several quarters of results from which to devise remedies for the strategic weaknesses,” he said.