London-based Barclays bank, which traces its origins to Britain’s goldsmiths of 1690, is at the center of a storm involving its CEO and his relationship with the late disgraced U.S. hedge fund manager, financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Barclays CEO Jes Staley is stepping down following an investigation into his relationship with Epstein by U.K. regulators, the bank said in a statement Monday.
Epstein was a hedge fund manager who had sex with underaged girls, some age 13 to 16, and allegedly ran a human trafficking operation for his rich and powerful friends. He would host his friends and associates at luxurious homes in the U.S. and Caribbean and keep notoriously thorough surveillance records of activities at his properties.
He was arrested in 2019 on child sex trafficking charges but hanged himself a month later in a Manhattan federal jail while awaiting trial. The opaque circumstances of Epstein’s death raised questions about whether he was murdered to silence him and protect his powerful friends in business and politics from testimony at his upcoming trial. Famous Epstein friends and associates include Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby and Prince Andrew, the Duke of York.
Regulators have been investigating whether Staley’s links to Epstein were closer than first thought, according to BBC: His departure “is apparently a perceived inconsistency between his account to his own board of his relationship with Epstein and evidence seen by the regulators.”
Before joining Barclays, Staley was an executive at U.S. bank JP Morgan, where Epstein was an important client. Staley insists that while they were in regular contact, their relationship was professional. Regulators began investigating the Barclays CEO after receiving emails between the men from JP Morgan.
The regulator found that the tone and volume of the emails suggested a closer relationship, BBC reported.
The bank said a preliminary conclusion on the investigation “makes no findings that Mr Staley saw, or was aware of, any of Mr Epstein’s alleged crimes, which was the central question underpinning Barclays’ support for Mr Staley following the arrest of Mr Epstein in the summer of 2019,” CNBC reported.
Staley isn’t the first high-profile executive to lose his job over ties to Epstein. Leon Black, former CEO of Apollo Global Management, announced early this year that he would step down after it was revealed that Black had paid Epstein $158 million for “creative” and “disruptive” advice, Fortune reported. Les Wexner also stepped down as the C.E.O. of L Brands after multiple investigations into his close association with Epstein.
Prince Andrew of the British royal family is still trying to dodge a lawsuit from a woman who alleges she was abused by him at Epstein’s properties and the home of Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell. Maxwell awaits trial later this month on charges that she found and acquired girls for sex with Epstein. Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates’ ex-wife Melinda French Gates reportedly started divorce proceedings after learning that her husband had met with Epstein.
“The repercussions from the Jeffrey Epstein scandal stretch far and wide, and now Barclays finds itself at the center of the storm,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, on Monday. “It’s understood Mr Staley will contest the conclusions, and clearly the board want to distance Barclays from what could be a long drawn-out process.”
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