Most convicted criminals receive visits from their lawyer or probation officer – not from one of the richest and most powerful bankers in the world.
But while the late Jeffrey Epstein was imprisoned in Florida for buying a child for prostitution, who should come in, but Jes Staley, who was then a senior executive at J. Morgan, is now the controversial chief executive of Barclays.
The lender denies that his boss actually visited Epstein behind bars, and said Staley saw the pedophile billionaire at the latter’s office in Palm Beach, where he was allowed “work release” for 13 months of his 18-month prison sentence.
Powerful friends: Jes Staley, circled, with Larry Summers and Jeffrey Epstein in 2011. Now – and not for time – Staley’s relationship with Epstein has been scrutinized by city supervisors determined to eradicate the truth
However, it is still extremely unorthodox for a titan of the city and Wall Street such as Staley – who is responsible for billions of pounds of British savers’ money – to cooperate with a well-known criminal who is in prison. The 24 million British customers of Barclays, who have entrusted his bank with their deposits and mortgages, will undoubtedly take a faint view of his fraternization with a jailbird, let alone an infamous multi-millionaire pedophile.
Now – and not in time – Staley’s relationship with Epstein has been scrutinized by city supervisors determined to eradicate the truth.
They investigate whether he was as open as he should have been on the Barclays board when they hired him as their £ 6 million per year CEO in 2015, or whether he underestimated the size of the ties between himself and Epstein.
For Epstein, then financier at his own company, Staley was a gateway to Wall Street wealth brokers. Pictured: Jes Staley with his wife Debora in 2012
Even if the watchdogs think there is no impropriety, the affair raises questions about Staley’s judgment, which is disturbing given his position at the helm of a £ 31 billion bank, one of the pillars of this country’s financial system .
In the past he claimed to have been an acquaintance of Epstein at best and certainly not a good friend. Now he admits that the couple enjoyed a close professional relationship for many years, a connection that was made when he led the private banking and asset management division of JP Morgan from 2000 to 2009.
For Epstein, then financier at his own company, Staley was a gateway to Wall Street wealth brokers. But why, one might ask, would a grandee like the boss of Barclays agree to mix with such a nasty character?
Mr Staley and his Brazilian heiress wife Debora visited Epstein on Little St James, one of his two private islands in the Caribbean (photo)
The answer lies in Epstein’s Svengali-like ability to attract rich and influential friends and act as a fixer.
All the problems with J P Morgan about his reputation as a sex offender appear to be outweighed by the lucrative business he could do. “Epstein was a uber networker, a magnet for important people, and that is a valuable currency for a banker like Jes,” said a source from the city.
He was not alone in defending Staley. A photo taken nine years ago in his manor house in Manhattan shows Epstein in the middle of a line-up of moguls, including former US finance minister Larry Summers. A broad smiling Staley, relaxed with his hands in his pockets and a shirt with an open neck, is standing at the edge of the group. He claims that he has not been in contact with Epstein since he joined Barclays in December 2015. The two, however, maintained contact close to that point.
In April of that year, when Staley J left Morgan and joined the Blue Mountain hedge fund, he and his Brazilian heiress wife Debora Epstein visited Little St James, one of his two private islands in the Caribbean.
Staley claims that the couple were on vacation on their luxury 90ft yacht, the Bequia, and happened to be sailing past Epstein’s hideout. They came in for lunch and didn’t talk about business.
Shortly thereafter, he would have broken the ties when he became a serious candidate for the top job at Barclays. Intriguingly enough, however, just before his appointment was confirmed in the fall of 2015, our sister newspaper The Mail on Sunday reported that Epstein had been a cheerleader for his friend who had previously been appointed Chief Executive at 2012.
At that moment, Staley, who denies asking Epstein to lobby for him, lost his job.
Barclays says that the board was not lobbied by Epstein. But it is easy to see why the shamed financier would have wanted to install his friend Jes in one of the largest banking jobs in the world. Epstein may have tried his own bat to drum on his behalf, but ineffectively.
Staley has done other laps. He was fined by the city’s supervisors for trying to expose a whistleblower, and also got involved in a dispute with private equity firm KKR when he intervened on behalf of his brother-in-law.
He was painfully taken in by a joker who presented himself as the Barclays president in an email exchange. Then he was forced to make a U-turn last year due to an unwise move to prohibit customers from taking cash from the counter at post offices after a Daily Mail campaign.
Patience with him was already worn out in government circles after that debacle.
Barclays has already left its sponsorship of Prince Andrew’s initiative to help entrepreneurs, Pitch @ Palace, after the Epstein scandal.
The question now is whether the bank’s own president can survive the toxic fallout.