Rebel Sherborne to withhold vote against Barclays boss in AGM

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FILE PHOTO: Barclays’ CEO Jes Staley arrives at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain January 11, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/fILE pHOTO

LONDON (Reuters) – Sherborne Investors (SIGC.L) said on Thursday it would withhold its vote against Barclays (BARC.L) Chief Executive Jes Staley in the lender’s upcoming general meeting, to prevent fresh boardroom turmoil as the bank grapples with the COVID 19 fallout.

The rebel shareholder said it still believed Staley “to be unsuitable to continue” as a director of the bank but it had chosen “with great reluctance” not to vote against him in recognition of the “complexity of the management situation” presented by the pandemic.

“It can be tempting, especially during a crisis, to compromise ethical or moral standards on the basis that ‘the trains must run on time’”, Sherborne said.

“Under the Stewardship Code, institutional shareholders should publicly disclose their rationale for voting decisions, and we believe that a ‘withhold’ vote would, in the current circumstances, stand up to any reasonable scrutiny.”

Sherborne, which controls a 5.45% stake in the bank and is its third-largest investor, also called on the board to announce an orderly succession timetable for Staley.

It said ongoing regulatory probes into his relationship with U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein and historic misdeeds including the attempted unveiling of a whistleblower had tainted Barclays by association.

Barclays, which is due to hold its AGM on May 7, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Sinead Cruise; Editing by Dhara Ranasinghe

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