Another Big British Bank Lands in Deep Trouble

Barclays faces a criminal trial in the UK. Last week it was RBS. 

Now, it’s the UK’s second-largest bank Barclays’ turn to face the music. A week ago, it was the UK’s third-largest bank, state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland, that faced one of its biggest scandal yet after whistle-blowers accused the bank of systematically forging customer signatures. RBS also faces the prospect of a multi-billion dollar fine for the way it sold residential mortgage-backed securities during the lead up to the Financial Crisis.

On Monday, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) announced that it was charging Barclays for a second time over a deeply suspicious £2.2 billion ($3 billion) loan it issued in 2008 to Qatar. To avoid a government bailout, Barclays took a £12 billion loan from Qatar Holdings, which is owned by the state of Qatar. Under that deal, Barclays loaned £2.3 billion back to Qatar Holdings, which allegedly was then used to buy shares in Barclays. If true, it would amount to “unlawful financial assistance,” the SFO says.

Barclays is the first British bank to face a criminal trial in the UK related to its conduct during the Financial Crisis. The fresh charge of “unlawful financial assistance” comes after charges were brought against Barclays’ holding company and four former executives last July.

Founded in 1690, Barclays is one of the world’s oldest banks. As the Financial Times notes, the original lender was established on a bedrock of honesty, integrity and plain dealing — a reflection of the sober values of the Quaker families that founded the bank. Today, things could not be more different. The bank now boasts one of the longest rap sheets of any bank in Europe, which — given the pedigree of the local competition, including Deutsche Bank, HSBC, RBS, UBS, BNP and Credit Suisse — is no mean feat

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