More Impropriety at Barclays

In January, we wrote about a lawsuit against Barclays for allegedly firing a woman when her baby was diagnosed with cancer.

A new report in the U.K. Daily Mail blows the doors open on a toxic culture at the British bank, including a top executive covering up wrongdoing. The article also details the egregiously hostile environment at the Barclays’ New York offices:

The world of investment banking is not known for its meek and mild characters.

But the colourful cast of high-powered executives in charge of the Barclays Wealth operation in America were in a macho universe of their own.

Staff at 200 Park Avenue, the Manhattan building where the British bank’s US operation is based, had to endure a “culture of fear”, according to independent consultants who conducted dozens of interviews with employees. They felt unable to raise their concerns with management, and this sense of unease even extended to the bank’s compliance team, whose job is to ensure that regulatory rules are observed.

Staff quoted in the [consultancy’s] report paint a vivid picture of a business where “bullying and intimidation” were commonplace. The interviews took place in New York, but the global Barclays Wealth operation is run from London, and the consultants made clear that they thought the problems within the organisation extended to the top of the management structure at [London headquarters].

It seems that every day brings a new headline about misconduct at banks. This story, selected practically at random, appeared on the Times’ “DealBook” section last night. It details how, in the leadup to the 2008 crisis, JPMorgan papered over the pervasive problems in the home mortgages that the bank was packaging into lucrative investment vehicles: the bank “flouted quality controls and ignored problems, sometimes hiding them entirely, in a quest for profit.”

It seems as if all the big banks are turning out to be bad actors, but Barclays may be in a class of its own.

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Barclays is setting aside $1.6 billion for legal costs for “inappropriate selling of complex financial products to customers.” It hardly needs saying—a firm that needs that much money for a one-off set-aside to defend itself from scandal probably does not have a culture of rule-following. A quote from the article from a British member of Parliament (a member of the Conservative party, no less) says it all:

“It doesn’t really matter what the scandal is, Barclays seems to have a finger in it,” said Andrew Tyrie, a British lawmaker who is overseeing the parliamentary commission on banking standards, which is investigating misconduct in the country’s financial services sector.

Barclays is also heavily involved in the LIBOR rate-fixing scandal that continues to send shockwaves through the U.K.

If you’ve faced a hostile work environment or any form of workplace discrimination, The Harman Firm has the expertise to help. Contact us today.