Do a search of this site, and you will find the saga of Jes Staley and Barclays dates back to 2017. As a new CEO of Barclays, Mr. Staley tried to force the unmasking of a whistleblower who had reported concerns about Staley’s recruiting of former JPMorgan colleagues. If you want to undermine an ethics and compliance program, there aren’t many ways better than intimidating employees who report concerns and issues.
Nonetheless, the Barclays board decided to leave Mr. Staley in place. Four months later, Barclays’s chief compliance officer resigned. One year later, in 2018, Mr. Staley paid a personal fine of $868,501 to British authorities for outing that whistleblower. Still, the board allowed him to stay on as CEO.
In 2020, Scotland Yard concluded that Mr. Staley had not been truthful in response to questions about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. The late Jeffrey Epstein (he hung himself while in prison) hosted Mr. Staley on the Epstein island of sin and debauchery. Mr. Staley assured the board and Scotland Yard that his wife was with him and he knew nothing about the underage girls brought to the island by Mr. Epstein. Mr. Epstein was well known in criminal law circles. He had worked out a plea deal with Florida authorities in 2008 on charges of sex trafficking. That level of criminal activity did not stop Mr. Staley and Messrs. Epstein, Bill Gates, Leon Black, and Leslie Wexner from being jolly good friends. But Mr. Staley apparently told the board that he had stopped that Epstein affiliation.
Just two days ago Mr. Staley resigned as Barclays’ CEO because the lack of candor issue emerged again. This mess could have been avoided if Barclays’s board had just sacked Mr. Staley when it had several opportunities documented by the Barometer beginning in 2017.
The best measure of any company’s culture is the company’s response when an executive doing well on the earnings side has messed up. By letting questionable conduct go,the board allowed Mr. Staley to let loose with more genuinely bizarre behavior. This time he had to go — lying to the board gets you the boot or resignation, however they want to characterize it all.
If only the board had seen outing a whistleblower as a serious offense. If only the board had seen in 2018 that their CEO was blind to propriety. If only the board read The Ethical Barometer. Give a shady CEO an inch, and off they go, miles wide and deep into more impropriety and downright creepy behaviors.