When Jes Staley arrived at Barclays in 2015, he knew it would be a slog. Transforming the runner-up for mostscandal-riddledBritish bank into a JPMorgan-style powerhouse would necessarily entail some tough measures. And if personally directing the bank's internal cyber risk team and even U.S. law enforcement to uncover the identity of an anonymous whistleblower is what that mission calls for, then by God, Jes Staley is going to do it.
Unfortunately, the British authorities aren't so keen on punishing whistleblowers, and now Staley is in a touch of hot water. According to an announcement released Monday by U.K. industry regulators, Staley may have acted out of line when he launched an internal campaign to out an anonymous tipster. New York regulators are also on the case, Reuters reported.
The whole affair began in June of last year, when an unnamed whistleblower wrote a letter that “raised concerns of a personal nature” about a senior employee the bank had recruited. The letter cited “Staley's knowledge of and role in dealing with those issues at a previous employer, and the appropriateness of the recruitment process followed on this occasion by Barclays,” according to the statement. The person in question, Bloomberg reports, is Tim Main, a homeboy of Staley's and one of several recruits from JPMorgan.
Staley did not take this criticism constructively:
Having been given a copy of the first letter and made aware of the second, Mr Staley initially requested that the Group Information Security (GIS) team attempt to identify the authors of the letters. Mr Staley considered that the letters were an unfair personal attack on the senior employee.
Mr Staley was subsequently informed that it was not appropriate to take steps to identify the authors. Following this, neither Mr Staley nor the GIS team took any such further action.
That could have been the end of it, but apparently speaking ill of Jes Staley is the one thing you can't get away with at Barclays. A month after being told he couldn't enact vigilante justice on an internal whistlblower, Staley “enquired whether the whistleblowing issue with the letters had been cleared.” The statement doesn't tell us how that question was answered, whether the underlying issue had been resolved or determined not to be an issue. Regardless, Staley them somehow got the “honestly held, but mistaken, belief” that he could resume the investigation.
Things accelerated quickly after that:
Mr Staley requested that GIS attempt to identify the author of the first letter following which GIS contacted and received assistance from a U.S. law enforcement agency in identifying its author.
Apparently if you're Jes Staley or one of his subordinates, agents of the U.S. government stand ready to help squash nasty rumors about you and your friends.
Ultimately the renewed investigation went nowhere, the original whistleblower escaped identification, and a second whistleblower brought the whole fracas to light. Mr. Staley, of course, feels very badly about his monthslong crusade to intimidate an insufficiently loyal underling:
I have apologised to the Barclays Board, and accepted its conclusion that my personal actions in this matter were errors on my part. I will also accept whatever sanction it deems appropriate. I will cooperate fully with the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulatory Authority, which are now both examining this matter. Our whistleblowing process is one of the most important means by which we protect our culture and values at Barclays and I certainly want to ensure that all colleagues, and others who may utilise it, understand the criticality which I attach to it.