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LONDON: Barclays Chief Executive Jes Staley is leaving the bank after a dispute with British financial regulators over how he described his ties with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Staley will be replaced as chief executive by the bank's head of global markets C.S. Venkatakrishnan, who pledged on Monday to continue his predecessor's strategy for Britain's third-biggest bank by market value.

Staley's shock departure comes after Barclays was informed on Friday of the unpublished findings of a report by Britain's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA) into Staley's characterisation of his relationship with Epstein, who killed himself in jail in August 2019 while awaiting trial on charges related to sex trafficking.

"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.

"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' support for Mr Staley following the arrest of Mr Epstein in the summer of 2019," it said in a statement.

The investigation has yet to be published, though regulators have said previously that it was focused on how truthful Staley was about his ties to Epstein. If Staley is found to have misled regulators he could face a fine, a ban from Britain's financial industry or both.

Barclays shares fell 2% following the announcement, before paring losses to trade down 1% at 1315 GMT, underperforming European rivals.

'I THOUGHT I KNEW HIM WELL'

Staley dealt with Epstein during his long career at JPMorgan, where Epstein was a major private banking client until 2013. A college dropout who styled himself as a brilliant financier, Epstein socialised in elite circles, including with former and future U.S. presidents. In 2008, he was registered as a sex offender but continued to maintain ties with powerful players in business and finance.

The New York Times reported in 2019 that Epstein had referred "dozens" of wealthy clients to Staley. It reported that Staley visited Epstein in prison when he was serving a sentence between 2008-09 for soliciting prostitution from a minor, while Bloomberg reported he visited Epstein's private island in 2015.

Staley told reporters last February that his relationship with Epstein had "tapered off significantly" after he left JPMorgan in 2013, and that he had not seen the disgraced financier since taking over as CEO of Barclays in 2015.

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