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Categorized | Banks, Financial

Barclays executive dismissed after SFO interview, tribunal hears

Posted on November 23, 2016

Barclays dismissed one of its top executives as a “direct result” of what it found out he told investigators who have a criminal probe open against the bank, a tribunal has heard.

Richard Boath, who until this year was Barclays’ chairman of financial services, will argue in an unfair dismissal hearing against the ban‎k that he was sacked following investigators at the UK’s Serious Fraud Office passing Barclays a transcript of his interview with them, his lawyer told a London tribunal in a hearing on Wednesday.

The SFO investigation, which started four years ago, is examining Barclays’ £7.3bn emergency cash call at the height of the financial crisis, when it turned to investors in Qatar and Abu Dhabi to help it stay out of UK government control.

The agency confirmed on Wednesday that Mr Boath is a suspect in that probe and has had an interview under caution — which is when suspects are read their rights.

The SFO and the bank are attempting to keep Mr Boath’s unfair dismissal claim against the bank private. They both argue that a public hearing of parts of Mr Boath’s testimony — which will touch on what he told the SFO — could contaminate evidence from others at a key moment of the probe.‎

Several media outlets, including the Financial Times, are fighting the attempt.‎ Mr Boath’s barrister said a hearing in private would be a “travesty” that would lead to millions of members of the public being “disenfranchised from public justice”.

Mr Boath is suing for lost pay and has a claim under whistleblower laws — meaning any potential tribunal award is uncapped. Barclays denies that he has a proper whistleblower claim, its barrister, Richard Lissack QC told the tribunal.

In 2008, Mr Boath was Barclays’ head of financial services, meaning he oversaw any raising of funds on the bank’s own account.

“Mr Boath makes particularly serious allegations,” his barrister, Jonathan Cohen QC, told the tribunal. “He says that what’s happened to him is a direct result of the SFO giving his transcript to Barclays. He will say: ‘The reason I find myself out on my ear by the bank is because the SFO did that.’”

Mr Boath has been interviewed by the SFO along with other former top brass at the bank, including the former chief executives John Varley and Bob Diamond, and its former finance director, Chris Lucas, as part of the investigation.

The SFO is looking at the arrangements the bank had with Qatar both during the October fundraising and one four months earlier. One line of the inquiry is whether a $3bn loan to Qatar’s ministry of finance in late 2008 had the effect of the bank covertly lending Qatar money to reinvest in the bank, the FT has previously reported.

The SFO wants Mr Boath’s hearing to be held in private to “preserve the confidentiality of” its interview with Mr Boath. As an alternative, it has asked that Mr Boath and Barclays should be banned from referring to the contents of the interview during the proceedings.

Barclays has deployed a squadron of top lawyers including Mr Lissack, while the trio of lawyers representing the SFO includes Edward Brown QC.

The start of the employment tribunal trial has been delayed a number of times. The delay, combined with Barclays’ support for the hearing to be in private, raises questions over whether Barclays is seeking to keep a lid on Mr Boath’s claim until after the SFO has reached a charging decision in its probe. The SFO has said it expects to make a charging decision by March 2017.