Neil Williams of corporate crime solicitors Rahman Ravelli considers where this leaves the agency.
The acquittal of three former Barclays executives on fraud charges brought an end to the first UK trial of senior bank figures for actions taken in the financial crisis.
Roger Jenkins, Richard Boath and Thomas Kalaris were cleared of all charges in relation to the alleged misleading of investors and markets over the bank’s capital raising arrangements with Qatar in June and October 2008.
A previous trial involving Jenkins, Boath and Kalaris ended in April 2019 when the jury was discharged after four months of court proceedings. Former Barclays chief executive John Varley was also a co-defendant in that trial but was acquitted by an appeals court last June.
Barclays Plc was charged in June 2017 with conspiracy to commit fraud and the provision of unlawful financial assistance. In February 2018, Barclays Bank plc was also charged with the provision of unlawful financial assistance. The charges against Barclays Plc and Barclays Bank Plc were dismissed in May 2018. In October 2018, the High Court rejected the Serious Fraud Office’s (SFO’s) application for a voluntary bill of indictment against Barclays Plc and Barclays Bank Plc to resurrect the prosecution.
While there have been some prosecutions and convictions as an indirect result of the crash of 2008, there has not yet been a corporate convicted - and nobody from the banks has been successfully prosecuted.
While the Barclays saga can be considered yet another high-profile defeat for the SFO it could be argued that it is not a reflection of the agency’s current regime. The Barclays case was driven by the previous SFO Director David Green - current Director Lisa Osofsky arrived to find it in her in-tray. Regardless of this, the SFO has to show it is making progress. Osofsky’s first full year in charge saw a 50% drop in the number of new cases opened, which hardly indicates that the agency is taking big strides away from its recent past.