In March last year, Edward Bramson, boss of the activist investor Sherborne, called on Barclays to sack Jes Staley after news that the Financial Conduct Authority was investigating the chief executive’s ties to the convicted paedophile, the late Jeffrey Epstein.

The US activist investor argued that re-appointing Staley at the May annual meeting was ‘ill-advised’ because of the harm being done to the bank’s reputation, already reeling from Staley’s peculiar attempts at unmasking a whistleblower for which he was fined £642,000 and cost him a clawed back £500,000 bonus.

Bramson was right in his judgment. Indeed, I agreed with him, writing here at the time, that Staley’s link to Epstein was just one bizarre incident too many and that, however brilliant he may be as a banker, his presence was undermining the Barclays brand. 

Exit: Barclays boss Jes Staley (pictured) has stepped down amid mounting concern over the extent of his relationship with convicted paedophile Jeffery Epstein

Exit: Barclays boss Jes STALEY (pictured) has resigned amid growing concern about his relationship with Jeffery Epstein, a convicted paedophile.

While Bramson’s criticism had perhaps more to do with his own attempt to force Barclays to change its business model – he has since sold his stake – he was ahead of the pack in claiming that Staley was a liability the bank could ill-afford. 

It was also obvious that chairman Nigel Higgins had to grab his hand and assert his authority. He announced that Staley would be stepping down at a future date, with a succession plan being in place immediately.

Higgins and Barclays board shrugged the issue and buried the report in the sand. Staley told an interviewer last month that he would still be around for a few more years.

That was up until Friday. Quite what happened at Barclays’ Canary Wharf tower on Friday night when the board received the report is anyone’s guess. Clearly there was enough meat for them to sharpen their knives and demand Staley’s head.

Barclays is saying nothing, other than it is ‘disappointed’ at the outcome of the report. 

Nor do we have a clue what is in the FCA’s interim report – and it maybe months before we do because Staley has said he will contest the findings, so expect some messy court cases.   

However, from what can be established, the FCA’s findings have not claimed in any way that Staley saw, or knew about, Epstein’s sex trafficking crimes.

Yet the FCA’s investigators, it would seem, may have found enough buried in the cache of Staley’s emails to show that his relationship with Epstein was not as he claimed.

This seems to be the heart and soul of the matter. Is Staley being frank about Epstein’s relationship?

Who knows. But it is being suggested there is evidence which contradicts what Staley had previously told Barclays about his role in Epstein’s affairs while acting as his private banker for many years. If this is true, the trust between Staley’s and the board is broken, and directors have the right to demand that he quit.

The two first worked together in a ‘professional relationship’ in 2000, when Staley became head of JP Morgan’s private bank where Epstein was a client. 

In 2008, Epstein was arrested for sex crimes. He pleaded guilty at the time to soliciting a prostitute. 

JP Morgan compliance officers had recommended that Epstein be cut off from their client list by 2009 due to the unacceptable risk to their reputation. He remained a customer until 2013.

Barclays joined Staley in 2015 and he has not kept it a secret that he saw Epstein for many years after his conviction.

He joined him at his New York mansion in 2011 – along with many other US bigwigs, including Microsoft’s co-founder, Bill Gates, whose own relations with Epstein are set to be disclosed in the divorce courts – and continued visiting him at his Caribbean retreat, just months before joining Barclays.

Barclays, where are you now? It’s testimony to Staley’s strategy of focusing on retail and investment banking that his successor is CS Venkatakrishnan – known as Venkat – who previously ran Barclays’ global markets trading division.

He also leaves on a high note, with the most recent results for the past nine months showing a 15% increase in tangible equity due to the post-pandemic capital market boom.

But the shares at 200.85p still trade at a discount to book value while shareholders haven’t done so well, earning a return of less than 3 per cent during Staley’s six years which have been so clouded by his personal issues. 

Staley’s departure may be overdue but by finally asking him to leave, Barclays has hopefully made itself stronger.

This article may contain affiliate links. We may earn a small commission if you click on them. This helps us to fund This Is Money and keeps it free of charge. We don’t write articles to promote products. We don’t allow any commercial relationship to influence our editorial independence.