Barclays fined £50m for 'reckless' behaviour during 2008 fundraisings

Barclays says it will contest penalty from City regulator over how bank disclosed details of fees to Middle Eastern investors

Barclays revealed on Monday that it is contesting a £50m fine by the City regulator, which claims the bank behaved "recklessly" in the controversial 2008 fundraisings that allowed it to avoid a taxpayer bailout.

As Barclays formally launched a £6bn cash call and admitted its investment banking earnings were "significantly" lower than a year ago, the bank provided more details about the investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority and Serious Fraud Office into the way it disclosed details of fees to the Middle Eastern investors who backed its two fundraisings at the height of the financial crisis five years ago.

There was no statement from the FCA on Monday, but Barclays said the regulator intended to levy one of its largest ever fines of £50m, only a year after Barclays incurred what was then a record fine of £59.5m for rigging Libor. That fine has since been surpassed by Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS, also for manipulating the key interest rate.

According to the new information provided by Barclays, the FCA has concluded that the bank should have disclosed more details about the fees due to Qatar Holdings, which amounted to £322m over five years.

Barclays, which is contesting the allegations, cites a "formal warning" notice from the FCA which has warned the bank that it "acted recklessly" in the way it disclosed the information about the fees and in so doing breached some of the rules governing the way shares are listed on the stock exchange.

According to Barclays, the existence of the "advisory services agreement" in June 2008 was disclosed but not the advisory services agreement in October 2008.

The FCA's warning notice asserted that while Barclays believed at the time that there should be at least some value from the agreements, their primary purpose was to make additional payments for the participation of the Qatar state's investment arm in the capital raisings.

"While the warning notices consider that Barclays and Barclays Bank believed at the time that there should be at least some unspecified and undetermined value to be derived from the agreements, they state that the primary purpose of the agreements was not to obtain advisory services but to make additional payments, which would not be disclosed, for the Qatari participation in the capital raisings," the bank said.

Barclays is conducting the cash call – in the form of a rights issue under which existing shareholders are offered the opportunity to buy new shares – after the Bank of England found it needed £12.8bn of extra capital. The new chief executive, Antony Jenkins, was promoted with a pledge to change the culture of the bank and is hoping to convince its shareholders to subscribe for one new share at 185p for every four they own. The shares closed on Monday night at 305p. The bank expects the new shares to start trading on 4 October.

On the fifth anniversary of the day it bought the Wall Street operations of Lehman Brothers out of bankruptcy, the bank did not provide any additional information on four current and former directors – known to include the recently retired former finance director Chris Lucas – it has previously said are being investigated.

Barclays repeated that the SFO is also investigating the agreements and that its "investigation is at an earlier stage and the group has received and continues to respond to requests for further information". Authorities in the US – the department of justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission – are also investigating.

The prospectus included a trading update in which it said income for July and August was £500m lower than the same time a year ago. In the nine pages of legal disclosures in the prospectus, Barclays also revealed that as a result of an investigation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) into the way it traded electricity in California, it has now been contacted by the criminal division of the United States Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York. Barclays is contesting the FERC findings.


Jill Treanor

The GuardianTramp

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