Barclays boss: Brace for shock on Staley emails – chairman calls top investors to warn messages between Epstein and Staley are ‘uncomfortable’

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  • Nigel Higgins has approached some of the bank’s biggest investors
  • Jess Staley abruptly quits after seeing the findings of a regulatory investigation
  • Publication of report could be an embarrassment for Higgins and the board

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Barclays chairman has privately warned shareholders that emails between former boss Jess Staley and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein would be ‘uncomfortable’ to read, the mail could reveal on Sunday.

Over the past fortnight Nigel Higgins has contacted some of the bank’s biggest investors, in an apparent effort to fight the scandal that has surfaced.

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Staley abruptly stepped down earlier this month after looking into the findings of a regulatory investigation detailing his relationship with Epstein, whom he portrayed as a professional.

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Firefight: Barclays chairman Nigel Higgins has approached some of the bank’s biggest investors over the past fortnight

The US-born banker plans to challenge the findings of two UK regulators probing whether he has misrepresented historical ties with the disgraced billionaire financier.

Epstein apparently committed suicide in 2019 while facing charges related to sex trafficking of underage girls.

The investigation assessed approximately 1,200 emails that were exchanged between Epstein and Staley, who was working at the private bank JPMorgan at the time of the correspondence.

Sunday’s Mail understands that Higgins, who viewed the report, told investors that some emails between Staley and Epstein would be “uncomfortable” to view because of Staley’s colloquial language.

A Top 20 shareholder told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We spoke to Higgins after Staley left. He was very open. He said once you read the final report, you would have questions for us as it would be uncomfortable to read.

Another investor said Higgins described some of Staley’s language in the email as “liberal.” The chairman also noted that Staley often builds strong relationships with clients and colleagues.

A source said Higgins explained that Staley had to leave after announcing he would fight regulators because the bank had to operate within their purview – leaving his position precarious.

Staley has hired Kathleen Harris, an attorney for Arnold & Porter, to oppose the findings of a joint investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

The FCA may publish a detailed ‘notice’ that includes excerpts from the email – even if the case has gone through the court system.

Worryingly, excerpts would suggest that Staley was closer to Epstein than he originally stated.

Higgins’ warning comes after publicly endorsing Staley when regulatory scrutiny surfaced last February.

At the time the bank said: ‘The Board … believes that Mr Staley has been sufficiently transparent with the Company regarding the nature and extent of his relationship with Mr Epstein.

‘Accordingly, Mr. Staley retains the full confidence of the Board, and is unanimously recommended for re-election at the Annual General Meeting.’

The publication of the report may come as an embarrassment to Higgins and the board, who were informed of the cache of emails in early 2019.

The recent phone call can be seen as an attempt to distance the board from the situation and prepare investors ahead of publication.

Staley first met Epstein in the early 2000s, when the latter was a client of JPMorgan. Staley also visited Epstein in 2009 while he was serving a prison sentence for soliciting prostitution from a minor.

The American banker also sailed his yacht, the Bequia, to Epstein’s private retreat in the Caribbean a few months before becoming chief executive of Barclays in December 2015.

As soon as Staley announced his departure from Barclays, the bank promoted CS Venkatakrishnan – popularly known as ‘Venkat’ – as chief executive officer. Venkat has been holding separate calls and meetings with key shareholders in New York over the past week.

He was hired by Staley — who worked with him at JPMorgan — as Barclays’ chief risk officer in 2016.

A top shareholder who spoke to Venkat over the past fortnight said: ‘He has zero tolerance for misconduct.’

Shareholders have expressed concern over the fact that Staley will continue to receive £2.4million in salary plus £120,000 pension allowance and other allowances until October.

A Staley spokesman said: ‘Mr Staley intends to oppose the initial findings of the FCA and PRA investigation.

‘He will not make any further public statements at this time.’

Barclays declined to comment.

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