British court dismisses charges against Barclays over 2008 Qatar deal

A Barclays sign is seen outside a branch of the bank in London, Britain. Charges brought against Barclays bank over a $3bn loan made to Qatari investors have been thrown out by a British court. (Reuters)
Updated 21 May 2018
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British court dismisses charges against Barclays over 2008 Qatar deal

LONDON: A British court has dismissed charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) against Barclays over its 2008 capital raising, the bank said on Monday, suspending for now the threat of regulatory sanctions on its business operations.
The SFO was however not prepared to let the case drop.
“We are likely to seek to reinstate the charges by applying to the High Court,” an SFO spokesman said. It was not clear when that application would be heard.
Barclays denied the SFO’s allegation that a $3 billion loan it made to Qatar in November 2008 was connected with a Qatari investment in the British bank which ultimately helped it avoid a British government rescue during the financial crisis, unlike its rivals Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland.
An end to the SFO’s case against Barclays and its operating subsidiary would remove the biggest remaining legal headache facing Barclays over its conduct during the financial crisis.
The collapse of one of its most high-profile corporate prosecutions would also represent a major setback for the SFO, with the prosecutor’s office under fire from politicians in recent years.
Qatar, which is a major investor in Britain, has not been accused of wrongdoing itself, but public companies in Britain are normally prohibited from lending money for the purchase of their own shares, known as “financial assistance.”
The SFO had been pursuing charges that Barclays unlawfully received such financial assistance, and that it had conspired with former senior executives to commit fraud over two so-called ‘advisory services agreements’ between Qatar and the bank which facilitated the fundraising.
NOT OVER YET
Even if the SFO were to fail in its efforts to reinstate the charges, Barclays still faces other legal and regulatory problems related to the 2008 fundraising.
The US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating the advisory services agreements.
Separately four former Barclays bankers face a charge of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation when they negotiated a capital injection for the bank from Qatar, in a trial due to start next January.
The four are former chief executive John Varley, and senior executives Roger Jenkins, Tom Kalaris and Richard Boath.
Barclays said the dismissal of the charges against itself should not be taken to have any bearing on whether other people may have committed a criminal offense.
Lawyers representing Boath and Jenkins declined to comment, while lawyers for the other two did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
British businesswoman Amanda Staveley has a separate $1 billion civil lawsuit against Barclays over the same fundraising.
Staveley’s private equity group PCP Capital Partners is claiming damages for alleged fraudulent misrepresentation in a row over whether Barclays offered Qatar and Abu Dhabi investors the same deal terms for participating in a fundraising in 2008.
Barclays has called the PCP lawsuit “misconceived.” Staveley declined to comment.
Barclays shares were up 0.7 percent by 1300 GMT, in line with the FTSE 350 British banks index.


Once mighty US retailer Sears files for bankruptcy

Updated 15 October 2018
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Once mighty US retailer Sears files for bankruptcy

  • Sears had been drowning in debt and reportedly could not afford a $134 million repayment
  • Started in 1886, the company was a pioneer of departmental stores that catered to everyone

WASHINGTON: Sears, the venerable US chain that once dominated the retail sector but had been in decline since the advent of the Amazon era, filed for bankruptcy Monday and announced it was closing almost 150 stores.
With a history that stretches back to 1886, the company was a pioneer of departmental stores that catered to everyone and by the mid-twentieth century had built a vast empire that stretched across North America.
But it has closed hundreds of outlets in recent years amid a retail shakeout caused in part by the rise of Amazon and other e-commerce players.
“The Company and certain of its subsidiaries have filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York,” a statement by Sears Holdings Corporation said.
Sears had been drowning in debt and reportedly could not afford a $134 million repayment that had been due on Monday.
Edward S. Lampert, Chairman of Sears Holdings, said the insolvency filing would give the company the “flexibility to strengthen its balance sheet” and enable it to accelerate a strategic transformation.
The company said it intended to reorganize around a smaller store platform, a strategy it said would help save tens of thousands of jobs.
But it announced it would close 142 unprofitable stores near the end of the year, in addition to the previously announced closure of 46 stores by November.
While retaining his chairmanship, Lampert will step down as CEO, with the role handled by other senior executives as part of a new “Office of the CEO.”
Sears added it had received commitments for $300 million in debtor-in-possession financing and was negotiating for an additional $300 million.
Sears is far from the only brick-and-mortar outlet to fall by the wayside as more consumers do the bulk of their shopping online.
In March, iconic Toys “R” Us announced it was shuttering all of its US outlets while other big names such as Macy’s and JC Penney have also been forced to close numerous locations and lay off workers.
American shopping malls in turn have been forced to turn to a new generation of stores, food and entertainment including players that began online, as well as gyms and video game bars like Dave & Buster’s.