Bramson withholds vote against Barclays CEO Staley
Sherborne Investors said it would withhold its vote against Barclays Chief Executive Jes Staley at the bank's shareholder meeting to avoid management upheaval during the Covid-19 crisis.
Sherborne, headed by activist investor Edward Bramson, had previously said it would vote against Staley's re-election at the annual general meeting.
Bramson has accused Staley of being unsuitable because of his past links with Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted paedophile financier who died in prison last year. Sherborne controls about 5.5% of Barclays shares and is its biggest shareholder after taking a stake in early 2018.
UK regulators are investigating past links between Staley and Epstein when Staley ran wealth management at JP Morgan. Barclays has said that after an internal review Staley has the board's full confidence.
Bramson, who was already at odds with Staley over Barclays' strategy, said in March that the board should take matters into its own hands and sack him. He said if Staley was up for re-election Sherborne would vote against.
But in a letter to Barclays shareholders on Thursday Sherborne said: "As a result of engagement with Barclays and in recognition of the complexity of the management situation presented during the Covid-19 pandemic, we will now, with great reluctance, only withhold our vote for Mr. Staley’s reappointment at the 2020 AGM, rather than vote against him."
Staley's links with Espstein were revealed after the Financial Conduct Authority fined him more than £600,000 in 2018 for attempting to identify a whistleblower at Barclays. His job appeared at risk during the whistleblower saga but the FCA left him in place.
Bramson said if shareholders voted for Staley's re-election they would be indicating tolerance of his actions.
"By withholding votes … to reappoint Mr Staley, we believe that shareholders would avoid affirming such tolerance while allowing the board time and flexibility to reassess Mr Staley’s position," he wrote.
Bramson urged shareholders to put pressure on Barclays' board to announce succession plans for Staley.
"There are 80,000 people at Barclays and we cannot imagine that the board has not already identified one or more of them as viable permanent or interim chief executive officer candidates," Bramson wrote. "Mr Staley’s departure would bring to an end what has now degenerated into a series of public spectacles."