Barclays’ most senior legal officer breached a pledge to criminal investigators by using a copy of their interview with the bank’s chairman of financial services to sack him, a court has been told.
Bob Hoyt, the bank’s general counsel, used a transcript of Richard Boath’s questioning under caution by the Serious Fraud Office in 2014 to dismiss him, Mr Boath’s lawyer told a London employment tribunal as part of his unfair-dismissal and whistle-blowing claim against the bank.
This had the effect of breaching a pledge to the SFO to only use the transcript for a legal dispute that was going on between the SFO and Barclays at the time, Jonathan Cohen QC for Mr Boath told the East London Employment Tribunal on Friday.
The SFO questioned Mr Boath, along with other former Barclays top brass, as part of its criminal investigation into the bank’s 2008 fund-raising, when it turned to investors in Qatar and Abu Dhabi to stay out of government control.
Mr Boath has cooperated with the SFO, which is yet to make any charging decision in the probe — dubbed Cadmium by the bank. It passed a transcript of his interview to Barclays as part of a legal battle with Barclays to obtain material that the bank claimed was covered by legal privilege. This keeps confidential any advice between lawyers and their clients even during a criminal probe.
That dispute has since been resolved, after the bank partially waived privilege on 100,000 documents.
Mr Cohen told the tribunal earlier this week that Mr Boath was fired “as a direct result” of the SFO passing Barclays its transcript of his interview-under-caution, which is when suspects are read their rights.
Richard Lissack, QC for Barclays has responded that Mr Boath does not have a proper whistleblowing claim and that it will fight his allegations. He warned Mr Cohen on Friday over “characterisations he seeks to give to senior lawyers at the bank”.
This week has been taken up entirely with arguments as to whether Mr Boath’s hearing should be in private — and indeed, whether a hearing to determine that point should itself be in private, as is desired by the bank and the SFO.
The Financial Times is among several media outlets fighting that application.
The delay has the effect of postponing Mr Boath’s substantive 10-day hearing. The SFO has said recently it hopes to make a charging decision by March 2017. If charges are laid, the UK media are under automatic restrictions on what can be reported before trial.