Barclays CEO Jes Staley stepped down Monday after a probe by British financial regulators looks to have found evidence his friendship with disgraced sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was closer than he had originally made out.
The U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) began an investigation into Staley’s “characterization to the company of his relationship” with Epstein after they received a cache of emails between the men from Staley’s former employer, JPMorgan Chase.
At the heart of the investigation is a perceived inconsistency between Staley’s account of his relationship with Epstein prior to joining Barclays in 2015 and what the bank told regulators.
Staley knew Epstein—who took his own life in 2019 while in jail facing child sex trafficking charges—when the latter was a client of JPMorgan and has admitted he maintained contact with him for about seven years after his 2008 conviction for child sex offenses.
On Friday, the FCA and PRA made Barclays and Staley aware of their preliminary conclusions. While the report apparently makes no findings Staley saw, or was aware of, any of Epstein’s alleged crimes, the conclusions were evidently damaging enough for him to agree to step down.
Staley leaves with one year’s salary of £2.4 million (U.S. $3.3 million), plus other benefits. He intends to contest the report’s findings.
The bank said it is “disappointed” at the outcome. C.S. Venkatakrishnan, Barclays’ head of global markets and co-president, now steps into the CEO role, subject to regulatory approval.
Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at financial services firm Hargreaves Lansdown, says the significance of the resignation should not be understated. “The repercussions from the Jeffrey Epstein scandal stretch far and wide, and now Barclays finds itself at the center of the storm,” she says.
“For the chief executive to step down following an investigation by city regulators into his dealings with Epstein, it’s clear the conclusions of the probe are critical,” Streeter says, adding “although detail is limited, it appears regulators believe there was a distinct lack of transparency over this relationship.”
In a statement, the FCA said: “The FCA and PRA do not comment on ongoing investigations or regulatory proceedings beyond confirming the regulatory actions as detailed in the firm’s announcement.”