Relationship between Jeffrey Epstein and U.K. bank boss investigated by regulators

LONDON — Regulators have launched an investigation into the relationship between the American boss of one of Britain's largest banks and the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, the bank said Thursday.

Jes Staley, the chief executive of Barclays, said he first met Epstein in 2000 but has had no contact with him since starting his current job in December 2015.

Epstein, 66, died by suicide in August while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

Barclays says it is satisfied that Staley, 63, has been transparent about the nature of "the professional relationship," and in a statement filed with the London Stock Exchange on Thursday recommended he should be reelected at its annual general meeting in May.

Image: Jes Staley, chief executive officer of Barclays Plc on day two of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos,

But the bank also revealed that an investigation was launched in December by two British financial regulators, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority, who are looking at Staley's description of his relationship with Epstein.

The FCA confirmed in a statement to NBC News that "there is an investigation concerning Mr. Staley" but declined to provide further details.

Barclays shares fell 3.4 percent in early trading Thursday.

Staley was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and spent much of his career at JPMorgan, the Wall Street bank.

Speaking with reporters Thursday, he said he regretted the relationship, which he said started while he was at JPMorgan but "tapered significantly" after he left that company in 2013.

"I thought I knew him well, and I didn't," he said, according to Reuters. "I'm sure with hindsight of what we all know now, I deeply regret having had any relationship with Jeffrey Epstein."

7 PHOTOS
The few publicly-available photos of Jeffrey Epstein
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The few publicly-available photos of Jeffrey Epstein
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 16: Carol Mack, Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell attend Henry Street Settlement Event on May 16, 1995 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
From left, American real estate developer Donald Trump and his girlfriend (and future wife), former model Melania Knauss, financier (and future convicted sex offender) Jeffrey Epstein, and British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell pose together at the Mar-a-Lago club, Palm Beach, Florida, February 12, 2000. (Photo by Davidoff Studios/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 13: Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell attend Batman Forever/R. McDonald Event on June 13, 1995 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Portrait of American financier Jeffrey Epstein (left) and real estate developer Donald Trump as they pose together at the Mar-a-Lago estate, Palm Beach, Florida, 1997. (Photo by Davidoff Studios/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 7: Guest and Jeffrey Epstein attend Imperia U.S. Launch Party at The Statue Of Liberty at Liberty Island on September 7, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Billy Farrell/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in Cambridge, MA on 9/8/04. Epstein is connected with several prominent people including politicians, actors and academics. Epstein was convicted of having sex with an underaged woman. (Photo by Rick Friedman/Rick Friedman Photography/Corbis via Getty Images)
Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in Cambridge, MA on 9/8/04. Epstein is connected with several prominent people including politicians, actors and academics. Epstein was convicted of having sex with an underaged woman. (Photo by Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images)
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Barclays said that when it was deciding whether to endorse Staley's reelection it had to take into account "media reports in the past six months that have highlighted historical links between" the two men.

Those reports include one by the New York Times last July that said Staley visited Epstein in Florida between 2008 and 2009 while he was serving a 13-month sentence for soliciting prostitution from a minor.

In August, Bloomberg reported that Staley visited Epstein on his private island in the Caribbean in April 2015. Barclays would not comment on either report Thursday.

It's not the first time Staley has been investigated by regulators. In 2018, the FCA and PRA fined him 642,000 pounds ($834,000) for trying to identify a whistleblower who had sent letters criticizing one of his hires at Barclays.

He received a bumper pay package of 5.9 million pounds ($7.64 million) in 2019, up from 3.36 million a year earlier, according to Reuters. The sum was boosted by the paying out of a long-term incentive plan worth 1.48 million pounds.

His bonus also rose to 1.65 million pounds, reflecting the bank's strong annual performance.

Both Staley and Finance Director Tushar Morzaria took cuts to their pension allowances in 2019, and will now receive fixed cash contributions equating to 10 percent of salary in line with the broader workforce, Reuters said.

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