The bitter legal battle between the financier Amanda Staveley and Barclays bank has intensified as lawyers from each side called into question the evidence of some of the most high-profile witnesses in the case.
The high court trial of Staveley’s claim against Barclays is entering its final week. She claims her client Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi invested £3.25bn as part of an emergency fundraising that saved Barclays from a state bailout at the height of the financial crisis 12 years ago, only to then discover that the UK bank secretly offered superior terms to Barclays’ largest investor, the state of Qatar.
Those hidden terms contributed to her being ousted as an investor on the deal and cost her an estimated £660m in lost gains from the investment at the time, the financier alleges. She had initially made a claim of up to £1.5bn, including interest.
Barclays has described Staveley’s case as “opportunistic and speculative” and argued that she was an adviser on the deal and not the principal. Her company, PCP Capital Partners, was paid a fee of £30m for its work on the fundraising, of which £11m was then paid out to other advisers, the company’s court filings have said.
In closing submissions, Joseph Smouha QC, for Staveley, told the court that some of the evidence of the former Barclays chief executive John Varley was a “heavily constructed submission about what he thinks happened in circumstances where he accepts his actual recollection was thin at best”.
He said it was an “ex post facto attempt to justify” a last-minute demand by Qatar to be paid millions more in fees in return for entering into a second fundraising to bail out the bank.
Staveley’s closing submissions also attempted to undermine the credibility of Stephen Jones, a senior Barclays executive during the financial crisis who resigned as boss of the lobby group UK Finance in June, just before alleged sexist remarks he had made about Staveley were due to be revealed in court.
Staveley says Jones’s evidence during the trial conflicted with an account he gave to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) before a previous criminal trial surrounding the fundraising. The difference “can only be explained as having been drafted with a view to assisting Barclays’ case in these proceedings”, the closing submission states.
The tactic of attempting to undermine the evidence of key witnesses was mirrored by Barclays. In its closing submission, the bank said: “PCP’s case depends on Ms Staveley’s credibility, but she was a thoroughly unreliable witness. Her evidence was in material respects inconsistent with the documents; her recollection can be shown to be flawed in material respects; and she was guilty of obvious embellishment and invention. In many respects her evidence was not credible: in a number of respects it was simply untrue.”
In February three former Barclays bosses were cleared of fraud over the investment made by Qatar. The SFO had alleged that lucrative terms given to Qatar were hidden from the market and other investors through bogus advisory service agreements. Charges against Barclays were thrown out in 2018.
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