Barclays chief Staley survives whistleblowing inquiry with fines

The decision to fine Barclays CEO Jes Staley, rather than ban him, comes as a relief for the banks' shareholders. AFP
Updated 20 April 2018
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Barclays chief Staley survives whistleblowing inquiry with fines

  • Case marks first test of Britain's "senior managers regime"
  • Decision not to dismiss Staley comes as relief for shareholders

Barclays said Jes Staley will be fined by British regulators for attempting to unmask a whistleblower, but will be able to keep his job as the bank’s chief executive.
The country’s banking watchdogs concluded Staley’s attempt to find out who wrote a letter raising “concerns of a personal nature” about an unnamed senior employee represented a breach of individual conduct, Barclays said on Friday.
Staley’s case is the first big test of Britain’s “senior managers regime” (SMR), aimed at making top banking officials personally accountable for their actions after few were punished for their roles in bank collapses during the financial crisis.
If Staley accepts the findings of the regulators, it would be the first time that a sitting chief executive of a major bank in Britain has been fined by its regulators. A bank spokesman said the size of the fine had yet to be determined.
Barclays said the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) were “not alleging that he (Staley) acted with a lack of integrity or that he lacks fitness and propriety to continue to perform his role as Group Chief Executive Officer.”
News of the FCA and PRA fines follows a more than year-long probe in Britain that had led to speculation among some investors and bank insiders that Staley could have been forced to step down if deemed unfit to continue by those authorities.
Barclays also said that the FCA and PRA will not take enforcement action against the bank, while authorities in the United States are still investigating the case.
“Staley will live on to fight another day – which we welcome as a positive development for the bank and a relief for shareholders,” John Cronin at Irish broker Goodbody said.
“He’s been delivering on the strategy far more effectively than his predecessor had and therefore absent any sort of genuine malpractice we’re pretty keen for him to crack on,” one of the bank’s top 40 investors said.
The British bank, which in April last year said it had reprimanded Staley and would cut his bonus for his attempts to identify the whistleblower, will be required to report to the FCA and PRA on aspects of their whistleblowing programs.
The watchdogs could have banned Staley and opting for a fine could dent the fledgling SMR’s credibility.
“The magnitude of banning the sitting CEO of such a systemically important institution made outcomes other than a fine unlikely, but the case does set an interesting precedent,” said Nicholas Queree, an associate at law firm Peters & Peters.
Staley received the draft warning notice last week and was given 28 days to accept the findings or appeal. If he agrees to pay the two fines he would get a 30 percent discount.
The fines have been set according to a formula that considers the type of offense, the offender’s position in the company, any financial hardship, any previous cases, and whether there was any monetary benefit from the offense.
“We ... will announce the outcome once this issue has reached a conclusion,” the FCA and PRA said in a statement.
Legal experts question whether a light sanction for Staley could send a signal to other potential bank whistleblowers that they risk unmasking if they speak out.
Barclays said it will recommend Staley’s re-election as a director at its board meeting on May 1. At the last annual meeting he faced resignation calls, but was given a public endorsement from Chairman John McFarlane.
Staley’s pay package was £3.88 million ($5.45 million) in 2017, 8.5 percent less than the previous year.


‘Don’t be too optimistic’: Huawei employees fret at US ban

Updated 26 May 2019
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‘Don’t be too optimistic’: Huawei employees fret at US ban

  • This week Google, whose Android operating system powers most of the world’s smartphones, said it would cut ties with Huawei
  • Another critical partner, ARM Holdings, said it was complying with the US restrictions

BEIJING: While Huawei’s founder brushes aside a US ban against his company, the telecom giant’s employees have been less sanguine, confessing fears for their future in online chat rooms.
Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei declared this week the company has a hoard of microchips and the ability to make its own in order to withstand a potentially crippling US ban on using American components and software in its products.
“If you really want to know what’s going on with us, you can visit our Xinsheng Community,” Ren told Chinese media, alluding to Huawei’s internal forum partially open to viewers outside the company.
But a peek into Xinsheng shows his words have not reassured everyone within the Shenzhen-based company.
“During difficult times, what should we do as individuals?” posted an employee under the handle Xiao Feng on Thursday.
“At home reduce your debts and maintain enough cash,” Xiao Feng wrote.
“Make a plan for your financial assets and don’t be overly optimistic about your remuneration and income.”
This week Google, whose Android operating system powers most of the world’s smartphones, said it would cut ties with Huawei as a result of the ban.
Another critical partner, ARM Holdings — a British designer of semiconductors owned by Japanese group Softbank — said it was complying with the US restrictions.
“On its own Huawei can’t resolve this problem, we need to seek support from government policy,” one unnamed employee wrote last week, in a post that received dozens of likes and replies.
The employee outlined a plan for China to block off its smartphone market from all American components much in the same way Beijing fostered its Internet tech giants behind a “Great Firewall” that keeps out Google, Facebook, Twitter and dozens of other foreign companies.
“Our domestic market is big enough, we can use this opportunity to build up domestic suppliers and our ecosystem,” the employee wrote.
For his part, Ren advocated the opposite response in his interview with Chinese media.
“We should not promote populism; populism is detrimental to the country,” he said, noting that his family uses Apple products.
Other employees strategized ways to circumvent the US ban.
One advocated turning to Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao to buy the needed components. Another dangled the prospect of setting up dozens of new companies to make purchases from US suppliers.
Many denounced the US and proposed China ban McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and all-American movies and TV shows.
“First time posting under my real name: we must do our jobs well, advance and retreat with our company,” said an employee named Xu Jin.
The tech ban caps months of US effort to isolate Huawei, whose equipment Washington fears could be used as a Trojan horse by Chinese intelligence services.
Still, last week Trump indicated he was willing to include a fix for Huawei in a trade deal that the two economic giants have struggled to seal and US officials issued a 90-day reprieve on the ban.
In Xinsheng, an employee with the handle Youxin lamented: “I want to advance and retreat alongside the company, but then my boss told me to pack up and go,” followed by two sad-face emoticons.