Varley Would ‘Walk the Plank’ If Barclays Funding Had Failed

11 Feb 2019

Varley Would ‘Walk the Plank’ If Barclays Funding Had Failed

(Bloomberg) -- A U.K. fraud trial of former Barclays (LON:BARC) Plc executives revealed how little some of them thought of the board, and how close they believed then-Chief Executive Officer John Varley was to losing his job as the lender tried to avoid a bailout at the peak of the financial crisis.

Roger Jenkins, who was negotiating a 2 billion pound ($2.6 billion) investment from Qatar, and Richard Boath, another executive working on the deal, were dismissive about the bank’s plans to avoid nationalization in June 2008 because the lender only approached four major sovereign investors for funding.

The pair vented their frustration on a phone call, which was played Monday to a jury in London where the two, Varley and a fourth man are on trial for allegedly deceiving investors in the course of the fundraising.

When Boath said the plan had been conceived by the board, Jenkins responded: "That’s because they don’t have any bankers on the board."

Even when Boath pointed out that Bob Diamond, then head of Barclays’s investment bank, was a board member, Jenkins repeated the statement. He then quipped that he’d be taking over from Varley if the fund-raising collapsed.

"Varley then has walked the plank and I’m in charge," said Jenkins, who was the bank’s Middle East head.

In the U.K.’s first jury trial of senior bankers related to the financial crisis, the Serious Fraud Office accuses the four defendants of agreeing to make secret payments to Qatar in order to secure two investments in 2008. They concealed the payments in fraudulent advisory agreements so that other investors wouldn’t demand similar terms, according to the prosecution. All four deny the charges. Diamond isn’t accused of any wrongdoing.

In June 2008, with time running out, Jenkins had secured the biggest chunk of the 4 billion pounds Barclays believed it needed to avoid nationalization. Late in the process, it emerged that the China Development Bank and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund were probably withdrawing from the placement. When Boath broke the news to Jenkins, his frustration was clear.

"You’re f---ing kidding me," Jenkins responded. "Oh f--k’s sake."

The call ends with Jenkins making another joke: "Actually, Bob’s just called me. I think he wants me to come and measure his office up. See you later."

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