The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has invited Barclays to discuss a potential deal that will close the SFO’s criminal probe into the bank’s £2 billion Qatari fundraising in 2008. Recent news reports suggest that Barclays is considering if it should accept a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the SFO but sources familiar with the situation says that under a DPA, the company will be slapped with a hefty fine and held under tighter terms and conditions.
The U.K. watchdog has been investigating the bank’s alleged role in lending Qatari investors money, which they eventually used to participate in the cash call, the Financial Times reports. The bank’s £2bn fundraising initiative in 2008 caused regulators to zero in on the company’s financial statements and business practices.
Only last year, Britain’s regulators have gained the right to offer DPAs. Generally, watchdogs do not provide the option for banks to accept full responsibility for a crime with tougher conditions. In the case of Barclays, the bank will have to take full responsibility for its offences and admit to their wrongdoing, which includes offering financial help to investors who purchased securities.
The Financial Conduct Authority, has agreed on a penalty for the bank of £50 million for making false statements around fundraising. It has been reported that Barclays is fighting the FCA’s allegations.
This unprecedented move by the SFO signals an interesting turn to the long-running investigation. It has been reported that the SFO was considering informing the magistrates’ court that the bank was not complying with a notice to cooperate with the regulator and was reluctant to provide sufficient evidence and witnesses. Under the U.K. law, failure to comply with notices as such is seen as a criminal offense.