Barclays freezes ex-CEO's bonus awards amid Epstein links and posts bumper annual profits

Barclays has frozen millions of pounds in bonus share awards made to former boss Jes Staley amid an investigation into his relationship with disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

The banking giant’s annual report revealed it has suspended all of Staley’s unvested long-term bonus share awards pending the regulatory probe. It said almost 70 per cent of these share awards granted since he was appointed in 2015 remain unvested.

Staley stepped down last November to contest findings by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority over the way he represented his relationship with Epstein to the bank.

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He still receives his contractual entitlement to £2.4 million in cash and shares - the equivalent of 12 months in fixed pay - as well as a pension allowance and other undisclosed benefits.

Banking giant Barclays posted better-than-expected results. Picture: John DevlinBanking giant Barclays posted better-than-expected results. Picture: John Devlin
Banking giant Barclays posted better-than-expected results. Picture: John Devlin

The bank said: “In line with its normal procedures, the committee exercised its discretion to suspend the vesting of all of Mr Staley’s unvested awards, pending further developments in respect of the regulatory and legal proceedings related to the ongoing Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulatory Authority investigation regarding Mr Staley.”

The development came as Barclays revealed that pre-tax profits leapt to £8.4 billion in 2021 after it released cash set aside for pandemic loan losses and notched up record investment banking earnings.

The group more than doubled profits from £3.1bn in 2020 thanks to the release of £653m in bad debt provisions, compared with £4.8bn set aside for Covid loan losses the previous year.

The better-than-expected results also showed that the group’s corporate and investment banking division recorded its highest-ever pre-tax profits of £5.8bn over the year, up from £4bn in 2020.

Its annual report showed Barclays increased its bonus pot for staff to £1.9bn, up from £1.6bn in 2020.

The group also announced its first female finance director, appointing deputy group finance director Anna Cross to the role from April 23.

She will succeed Tushar Morzaria, who is retiring after more than eight years in the post, and becomes the first woman to hold one of the top three boardroom jobs at the bank.

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John Moore, senior investment manager at Brewin Dolphin, the wealth firm, said: “A record set of results for Barclays is indicative of how the tide has turned for the company in the aftermath of the failed activism targeted at it, and reflects a better environment for the financial sector generally.

“The bank is now ahead of where it was pre-pandemic in share price terms and the impairment release points to confidence in its lending book. Barclays is in a strong position and, with a more diversified income base, looks to be one of the best positioned among the UK’s major banks.”

Richard Hunter, head of markets at investment platform Interactive Investor, noted: “In terms of momentum, the picture is positive, with most fourth-quarter metrics not only improving but also being ahead of expectations. For the year as a whole, there is also a general movement towards progress, although as ever some metrics will need to be watched more closely.”

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