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Barclays CEO Jes Staley steps down after probe into his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein

November 1, 2021, 8:56 AM UTC

Jes Staley, the group chief executive of Barclays, has stepped down following a probe into his relationship with the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. He will be replaced by C.S. Venkatakrishnan.

Staley’s relationship with Epstein, who died by apparent suicide in 2019, dated back to Staley’s days running JPMorgan Chase’s private banking division, of which Epstein was a client. According to Staley, they first met in 2000 but had no contact since 2015, when Staley joined Barclays. That was already seven years after Epstein, a hedge fund manager, was convicted over procuring a child for prostitution—a fact that didn’t stop Staley from visiting Epstein in Florida and on the latter man’s private Caribbean island.

In 2019, the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) asked Barclays about Staley’s relationship with Epstein, and early last year it began probing “Mr. Staley’s characterization to the company of his relationship with Mr. Epstein and the subsequent description of that relationship in the company’s response to the FCA.” On Friday, it and the Prudential Regulation Authority delivered preliminary conclusions to Barclays, and—while neither agency is publicly commenting on those findings—the result was Staley’s departure.

“In view of those conclusions, and Mr. Staley’s intention to contest them, the board and Mr. Staley have agreed that he will step down from his role as group chief executive and as a director of Barclays,” the bank said in a statement. “It should be noted that the investigation makes no findings that Mr. Staley saw, or was aware of, any of Mr. Epstein’s alleged crimes, which was the central question underpinning Barclays’s support for Mr. Staley following the arrest of Mr. Epstein in the summer of 2019.”

Barclays’s share price dipped more than 3% on the news.

Staley’s replacement, Venkatakrishnan—known to colleagues as Venkat—is also ex-JPMorgan, brought across by Staley shortly after the latter’s appointment as Barclays CEO. As chief risk officer, Venkatakrishnan put in place processes that proved instrumental in helping Barclays steer clear of the Archegos Capital Management implosion; more recently, he was put in charge of the bank’s markets division. Venkat was already in the frame as Staley’s replacement before Monday’s announcement.

Staley is not the first bigwig to be toppled by his association with Epstein. Earlier this year, Apollo Global Management CEO Leon Black stepped down after he was found to have paid Epstein $158 million for “creative” and “disruptive” advice—again, after the man was already a convicted sex offender.

Other powerful men who met with Epstein after his conviction include the U.K.’s Prince Andrew, who is still trying to fend off a lawsuit from a woman who alleges he abused her at Epstein’s properties and the home of Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell, and Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, whose ex-wife Melinda French Gates reportedly initiated divorce proceedings when she learned of the meetings.

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