John Varley, the former chief executive of Barclays Bank, is among four former senior managers charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
The charges relate to events involving the bank’s rescue during the financial crisis of 2008, using a capital injection from Qatar.
Along with Barclays plc, Varley and fellow Barclays’ executives charged are Roger Jenkins, the former executive chairman of investment banking in the Middle East; Thomas Kalaris, previously the chief executive of Barclays Investment Management and Wealth; and Richard Boath, former European head of financial institutions.
Barclays, Varley and Jenkins are also charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation in relation to events in October 2008. They are also further charged with unlawful financial assistance.
All those charged have been ordered to appear before Westminster magistrates on 3 July.
The allegations relate to capital raising from Qatar Holding, the Gulf state’s wealth fund; and Challenger Universal, the investment vehicle of former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani.
Capital raised from Qatar helped Barclays avoid taking a bailout from the UK government.
Varley and Kalaris are yet to comment publicly, while Barclays has said it is considering its position. Reuters reports Boath saying that the SFO’s decision to charge him was based on a misunderstanding of his role, that he was not a decision-maker at the time and there was “no case for me to answer”.
Reuters says a lawyer for Jenkins has said he would “vigorously defend himself”.
The charges centre on an advisory service agreement (ASA) struck between Barclays and Qatar at the time the funds were raised.
The agreement saw Barclays pledge to pay £322m to Qatar in return for helping the bank develop its business across the region. Qatar was then given a loan by the bank.
The Financial Times said: “The £2.4bn in total that was pledged to Qatar matched what the tiny Gulf State initially invested in Barclays, leading to questions over whether what was going on was inducement, or lending to reinvest back in the bank.
“The bank has previously said that the ASA’s fees were for legitimate services, and that the loan had a specific clause outlawing any such reinvestment.”
Meanwhile, the Lombard column in the FT notes that Varley appears to have been charged not for bringing down a bank, but for trying to save one.
“In an irony that will not be lost on Mr Varley, the other bank CEOs whose leadership left them no choice but a state bailout all got off — pun intended — Scot-free. Royal Bank of Scotland boss Fred Goodwin avoided having to appear in a civil court when his former employer settled with most of the relevant shareholders over a 2008 rights issue.”