Jes Staley, the scandal-hit former chief executive of Barclays, reportedly exchanged 1,200 emails with the sex offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein over a period of four years. The emails included phrases like “snow white,” the meaning of which is yet unclear. Epstein was arrested in 2019 on charges of sex trafficking minors. He allegedly committed suicide that year in August while in prison.
Information regarding the letter was leaked to the Financial Times (FT) by people familiar with the correspondence between Staley and Epstein. Emails between the two men are yet to be made public. According to FT, many of the emails were sent between 2008 and 2012. It showed that the two men had a close relationship. The term “snow white” was written in a message that referred to a previous conversation that the two had in person.
“We wish to make it expressly clear that our client had no involvement in any of the alleged crimes committed by Mr Epstein, and code words were never used by Mr Staley in any communications with Mr Epstein, ever,” Kathleen Harris, one of Staley’s lawyers, said to the media outlet.
The FT report comes just days after Staley stepped down from the post of chief executive at Barclays. In 2019, UK’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) began investigating the ties between Staley and Epstein. On Oct. 29, 2021, Barclays was made aware of the initial findings of the investigation.
In a statement on Nov. 1, Barclays announced that Staley was stepping down since he plans to contest the findings of the probe. The report does not mention that Staley was aware of the crimes committed by Epstein, the bank said. Back in 2019, Barclays had supported Staley amidst talks of his involvement with Epstein. But the PRA and FCA reports have turned things around. Details of the report have not been made public.
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Susannah Streeter, the senior investment analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, believes that the report was highly critical of Staley. The focus of the probe was not Staley’s role at Barclays but about his previous position at JP Morgan and his relationship with Epstein. He had met Epstein while being employed at the Wall Street bank.
“Although detail is limited, it appears regulators believe there was a distinct lack of transparency over this relationship… It’s understood Mr Staley will contest the conclusions, and clearly the board want to distance Barclays from what could be a long drawn out process,” Streeter told BBC.
Last year, Staley said that he deeply regrets having “any relationship” with Epstein given “what we now know.” However, Staley had remained in touch with Epstein for seven years after he was convicted for soliciting prostitution from a minor in 2008. When Epstein was in jail, Staley visited him.
Barclays’ investors are reportedly angry at the way the bank has handled the issue. Last year, Barclays claimed that Staley had been transparent about his relationship with Epstein. The board decided to support him and rejected his offer of resignation. But with the latest developments, Barclays’ decision to back Staley could come back to haunt them.
“[The board] does not come out of this looking strong and in control of events… At the moment I can’t tell whether the board’s decision was reasonable on the basis of the evidence they had at the time or whether whatever has come to light since should have been identified by them too,” a top ten shareholder of the bank told The Telegraph.
A spokesperson representing Staley said that he intends to contest the findings of the report. Barclays will continue paying Staley until next October, including ￡2.4 million ($3.22 million) in fixed pay and ￡120,000 ($160,978) as pension allowance and other benefits.