Barclays ducks Qatar questions, takes $1.6 billion mis-selling hit

Tue Feb 5, 2013 10:12am EST
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By Steve Slater and Matt Scuffham

LONDON (Reuters) - Barclays bosses ducked questions on Tuesday over funding for its rescue by Qatar four years ago, as another big charge for mis-selling showed how past problems continue to dog the British bank.

UK authorities have been investigating the bank's fundraising from Qatar at the height of the 2008 financial crisis since July. The Financial Times reported last week that they were looking into whether Barclays had lent Qatar money to buy shares in the bank itself.

Asked if there was anything linked to the Qatar fundraising that could cause embarrassment in the future, Barclays Chairman David Walker told lawmakers that he could not comment due to the continuing investigation.

Walker and his chief executive Antony Jenkins faced a grilling during a sometimes tetchy 2-1/2 hour session before a parliamentary inquiry into banking standards. Lawmakers accused the bank of aiding "industrial scale tax avoidance" and said it needed to shake up its board, including getting a new head of its remuneration committee.

"It doesn't seem to matter what the scandal is, Barclays seems to have a finger in each pie, quite a big one," said Andrew Tyrie, the inquiry's chairman.

Barclays earlier set aside a further 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion), including an extra 600 million to compensate customers for payment protection insurance. PPI mis-selling alone has now cost UK banks over 12 billion and could end up more than double that, industry sources estimate.

Unlike Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds, which had to take government bailouts during the crisis, Barclays avoided a rescue funded by British taxpayers after Qatar bought its stake.

However, the wider banking industry has come under fire for a series of scandals including the mis-selling of financial products to clients who did not need or could not use them, and over the rigging of a major interest rate. This, along with public anger at big bonus payments, has put the spotlight on the culture of bankers before, during and since the crisis.   Continued...

A logo of Barclays bank is seen outside a branch in Altrincham, northern England April 26, 2012. REUTERS/Phil Noble