The head of bank lobby group UK Finance has resigned after being dragged into a legal case against his former employer Barclays, which is being sued by financier Amanda Staveley over a cash raise backed by Qatar during the financial crisis.
Derogatory comments made by Stephen Jones in 2008 emerged in the first days of testimony from Ms Staveley last week, as part of a lawsuit she has brought against the British bank. She alleges Barclays made secret side arrangements and undisclosed fees to Qatar in the cash raise, which helped it avoid a government bailout, unlike peers Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds.
Mr Jones was then a senior banker at Barclays who was involved in the discussions over the £12bn Qatari financing. The comments were made in internal calls regarding Ms Staveley and her investment firm PCP Capital Partners, which were recorded at the time. While the exact wording has yet to emerge, they are expected to be read out when Mr Jones appears as a witness at the trial next month.
PCP led a parallel investment in Barclays by Abu Dhabi in October 2008, but claims it would not have done so had it known that Qatar was securing a better deal. Barclays denies wrongdoing.
Mr Jones — who is also a former chief financial officer of Santander UK, the Spanish bank’s British high street arm — offered his resignation as chief executive of UK Finance on Tuesday, which the board accepted.
Bob Wigley, chairman of the lobby group, said: “Stephen has rightly acknowledged that the comments he made in 2008 were inappropriate and do not meet the standards expected of leaders in our industry. He has characteristically taken a difficult personal decision in the interest of UK Finance and the industry and we accept his decision.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Jones said he had apologised to Ms Staveley and colleagues “for the comments made in 2008 and feel at this time it is right I step down from my role at UK Finance”.
He has already written to staff to apologise for the comments, which he said were “wholly inappropriate and do not meet the standards of language and behaviour we rightly expect”.
He added in the memo to staff: “I regret making these comments and I cannot defend them . . . My remarks in 2008 were wrong at the time and are wrong now. I want to apologise to you all for letting you down in not having conducted myself at the time in the way that we all expect of one another.”
Mr Jones also wrote to Ms Staveley through her law firm to apologise.
Mr Jones also stepped down last week from the Women in Banking and Finance awards, after his offer to do so — given the risk of becoming a distraction — was accepted by the organisers.
UK Finance has recently achieved gender equality on its board. In the memo, Mr Jones said: “As I hope you know, I am and have always been a strong advocate for diversity in all respects. I am proud of what we have achieved so far at UK Finance in this context but know we have more to do both as a company and as an industry.”
Mr Jones has fronted the financial industry’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, acting as a spokesman and go-between for the nation’s banks, insurers and asset managers with the British government and Treasury.
UK Finance was formed in 2017 as the result of a merger between lobby groups the British Bankers’ Association, Payments UK, Council of Mortgage Lenders, UK Cards Association and Asset Based Finance Association.
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