The board is disappointed at this outcome,” said Barclays statement to markets yesterday morning. As understatements go, it’s up there with Spike Milligan’s “I told you I was ill” epitaph.
That Jes Staley has left the firm is not, necessarily, a surprise. It has been rumoured that he was ready to give up the gig this year.
What is more surprising is that Barclays’ board allowed a situation to develop which allows the words “chief executive to quit”, “links to notorious paedophile”, and “regulatory probe” to appear in the stories around Staley’s departure.
It has been obvious for some time that Staley’s role at the top of Barclays was somewhere between unfortunate and unsustainable.
Frankly that was true after Staley was fined more than half a million quid by the Financial Conduct Authority for trying to root out an anonymous whistleblower. In a world in which multinationals fall over themselves to talk about ‘profit with purpose’, it was at best bad optics and at worst brazen hypocrisy.
That the Epstein scandal was allowed to hang around the firm like a bad smell for so many months just looks like a bad call. Even yesterday the Board were keen to point out why they had stuck with him. To what end?
Staley is perfectly entitled to fight the findings of the FCA and the Prudential Regulation Authority. That is his right.
But why Barclays seemed even yesterday to keep on fighting for their now departed CEO is beyond this newspaper. He’s steered the ship well. Share price aside– itself artificially deflated by the arrival of a global pandemic – the bank Staley has left looks in pretty good nick, not least thanks to his decisions.
While he will not be able to move on from his association with Epstein – unlike royalty, even global CEOs cannot hide in the bunker forever – it is now time for Barclays to do just that. The board should have started that process rather earlier.