Barclay’s: The Bank That Can’t Shoot Straight and Its Latest Gaffe

Antony Jenkins was named Barclay’s CEO in December 2012 following the LIBOR rate-fixing problems at the bank, a serious misstep that cost the bank almost one-half billion in fines. Mr. Jenkins, by all accounts, worked diligently to change the Barclay’s culture. Then, he was fired by Barclay’s board in July 2015 because he was not doing enough shareholder-wise. So much for the culture change; we want turn-arounds and earnings. Enter James E. Staley, former JPMorgan investment bank executive, to take the Barclay’s CEO slot. Hiring from the home of the London Whale and that $6-billion trading loss, may not speak “culture is important here,” either.

In January 2016, things got sticky. The board learned through an anonymous letter that Mr. Staley had asked for some unmasking of a whistleblower. Apparently, the whistleblower Staley wanted identified by the bank’s information security team had written letters to the Barclay’s board and a senior executive raising allegations about another executive and his behavior. Mr. Staley said the allegations were untrue, and he sought to identify the author of the letter.

Now, stop here for a minute. In the world of ethics and compliance, one of the keys to anonymous reporting is anonymity. However, Mr. Staley insists that he did not know such a request was wrong. CEO training must have forgotten to mention the anonymity thing. An investigation by a law firm hired by the Barclay’s board found that Mr. Staley was told at the time his request that he could not unmask the identity of whistleblowers. Mr. Staley did it anyway, has admitted what he did, and is likely to have his bonus (or some portion thereof) clawed back.

The board has received media kudos for holding Mr. Staley to account. Pardon me? There is no way to change a culture when you fired the CEO who was trying to do so but was not making enough money followed by the retention of a CEO who is not too busy to seek the identity of whistleblowers. For what purpose we will never know. What we do know is that Barclay’s has a problem going forward. What employee is his or her right mind would make an anonymous report now? This guy needs to go if the board expects to ever hear about any issue. Mind you, Mr. Staley sought the whistleblowers identity because he felt the whistleblower was in error. Don’t we all! That’s why we have compliance officers and investigations. We sort things through to determine if the whistleblower is right or wrong.

Worse, the regulators have just gotten started on their investigation. Mr. Staley says that he has apologized to the board (“for errors on my part,” which is a weasely way of saying, “Hey, those other guys did it too!”) and vows to cooperate with regulators in their investigation. Let’s hope the regulators see the issues the board missed.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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