LONDON, May 10 (IFR) - Barclays chairman John McFarlane
rejected a call to oust CEO Jes Staley for trying to unmask a
whistleblower, saying that would be an excessive punishment for
"a genuine mistake".
"He thought he had a green light, he went through the light,
and actually it was red," McFarlane told shareholders at the
bank's annual meeting on Wednesday.
"The action for going through a red light is not usually
that you lose your licence."
Staley said sorry to investors for the issue.
"I made a mistake. I would like to apologise to you for that
error," Staley said.
Barclays revealed last month it had reprimanded Staley and
would cut his bonus after he twice attempted to identify the
author of a letter that made claims "of a personal nature" about
a senior employee at the bank. British regulators are still
assessing Staley's actions, and could punish him if it finds he
flouted strict new UK rules on how to treat whistleblowers.
Questions about Barclays' standards and culture dominated
the AGM. Shareholder Michael Mason-Mahon, a frequent activist at
UK banks' AGMs, told Staley he should resign to avoid bringing
embarrassment on the bank. Another said McFarlane appeared to be
in charge of a "Carry On" film.
"You know me, if I thought he should go, he would have
gone," McFarlane responded.
Staley was comfortably re-elected. Only 2.8% of investors
who voted opposed his re-election, although the number of votes
against and abstentions was 16.3%. ISS, a shareholder proxy
firm, had advised investors to abstain from voting to re-elect
Barclays also addressed the impact of Brexit, which it said
would be "wholly manageable" even in the worst outcome for banks
over the passporting of financial services.
"We do not currently see a need in our options to shift
British jobs or significant operations elsewhere," Staley said.
"If we require a build-up of capability in another European
Union jurisdiction as part of our plans then we can do so, and
Barclays is expected to expand its operations in Dublin to
handle EU transactions if necessary, although that will be
modest as the bank has cut its European operations to focus on
its "home" markets of Britain and the US.
Barclays' corporate and investment bank still has work to do
to deliver the profitability expected, and its US rates business
underperformed in the first quarter, Staley said.
"In the markets business we held share (in the first
quarter). But we didn’t do quite as well as we would have liked,
particularly in US rates trading – and that did dent performance
on a dollar basis," he said.
(Reporting by Steve Slater)