The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) on Friday suffered another major setback in the U.K.’s first trial against bank executives for misconduct during the 2008 financial crisis, after three former executives of Barclays were acquitted of fraud charges.
Roger Jenkins, Richard Boath, and Thomas Kalaris were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud for allegedly misleading investors and the markets over capital raising arrangements agreed with Qatar Holding and Challenger Universal in June and October 2008.
In May 2018, the Crown Court dismissed charges against Barclays Bank and its parent company, Barclays PLC, over the nature of the bank’s deals with a group of Qatari investors to bail it out of trouble and keep it out of U.K. government control at the height of the financial crisis. During two emergency fundraisings in 2008, Barclays raised a total of £11.8 billion (U.S. $15 billion) with a group of Qatari investors in return for a $3 billion loan, which the SFO considered illegal. The High Court rejected the SFO’s application to re-instate them in October later that year and refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Barclays former CEO John Varley also faced charges, but that case was dismissed in April 2019. Chris Lucas, Barclays’ former chief finance officer at the time of this conduct who was named as a co-conspirator on the indictment, escaped charges and trial due to health issues.
Critics say the decision is a blow to the SFO that could lead to changes down the road. “While it is too early to say, there is the possibility that this could reshape the SFO’s thinking when it comes to dealing with individuals after the company has already been dealt with,” says Aziz Rahman, a senior partner at corporate crime legal specialists Rahman Ravelli.
“In this case, the SFO has been dogged in its pursuit of individuals, and that pursuit has ended in failure,” Rahman adds. “Unfortunately for the SFO, this seems to be a routine that is being played out with monotonous regularity.’’
The SFO has indicated it will remain steadfast in its pursuit of such cases, however. “Our prosecution decisions are always based on the evidence that is available, and we are determined to bring perpetrators of serious financial crime to justice,” said an SFO spokesperson. “Wherever our evidential and public interest tests are met, we will always endeavor to bring this before a court.”