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“US Law Enforcement Agency” Assisted Major Bank CEO in Whistleblower Hunt

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The head of a major British bank had help from the US government in attempting to unmask the identity of a whistleblower.

Barclays CEO Jes Staley tasked an information security team to find out the source of an anonymous letter critical of another senior executive. The team then reached out to federal officials for assistance, and received it.

The hunt was ultimately “unsuccessful” and Staley subsequently took no further steps to ferret out the name of the author, according to an announcement published Monday by the bank’s board.

Staley’s inquiry, however, has attracted the attention of British regulators. Two separate enforcement bodies in the UK are now investigating “his individual conduct” and Barclays internal controls, the bank’s announcement also noted. New York state regulators are similarly looking into Barclays practices, according to press reports.

If and when US regulators announce a probe, there could be questions about federal officials’ own conduct in the affair.

“Mr. Staley requested that [Group Information Security] attempt to identify the author of the first letter,” Barclays board said Monday. “[F]ollowing which GIS contacted and received assistance from a US law enforcement agency in identifying its author.” The agency was not named by the bank.

“Mr. Staley was subsequently informed of this and the results from the steps that GIS had taken,” the letter also noted.

Barclay’s board was first made aware of the Staley’s whistleblower hunt earlier this year, Monday’s announcement noted, after an employee brought up concerns about “the adequacy of Barclays whistleblowing procedures.”

“The board immediately instructed an external law firm, Simmons & Simmons LLP, to conduct a focused investigation on the affair,” Barclays said.

Staley has copped to the wrongdoing, but thought he was in the right, at the time. He is set to lose pay, and might see the entirety a $1.6 million annual bonus wiped out, according to Bloomberg.

Staley “honestly, but mistakenly, believed that it was permissible to identify the author of the letter,” the bank’s announcement noted.

According to the Financial Times, the executive who was the subject of complaints is Tim Main, chair of Barclay’s financial institutions group.

The allegations stated “that a recently-recruited ‘senior employee’ had had personal problems and raised concerns about Mr. Staley’s involvement in that person’s hiring,” FT reported. Staley believed the allegations served as the basis for an “unfair attack” on Main.

UPDATE: A previous version of this story misidentified Barclays’ Group Information Security as a contractor.

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Since 2010, Sam Knight's work has appeared in Truthout, Washington Monthly, Salon, Mondoweiss, Alternet, In These Times, The Reykjavik Grapevine and The Nation. In 2012, he worked as a producer for The Alyona Show on RT. He has written extensively about political movements that emerged in Iceland after the 2008 financial collapse, and is currently working on a book about the subject.

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