Martin Vander Weyer Martin Vander Weyer

Could the SFO put an end to Barclays as we know it?

Also in Any Other Business: Ireland’s Brexit anger and why I’m not convinced by the so-called Korean thaw

The Serious Fraud Office has upped the stakes in the case of the controversial $3 billion Qatari financing that saved Barclays from a taxpayer bailout in 2008, by extending the charge of ‘unlawful financial assistance’ to the operating company, Barclays Bank plc, as well as the parent, Barclays plc. Four senior former Barclays employees, including the then chief executive John Varley, are already due to stand trial early next year on the same and other fraud-related charges. The significance of the SFO’s move is that Barclays Bank plc stands in danger of losing its licences to run banking businesses, including branch networks, in the UK and elsewhere if convicted of a serious criminal offence.

As this decade-old saga rumbles on, Barclays’s reputation remains unpurged. Its share price remains stuck at a quarter of its pre-crash level, and its annual results, due out next week and expected to look favourable in terms of the performance of the current management team, won’t make much difference to investor sentiment because the past still looms so large. All of which must increase the likelihood of Barclays being broken up, one day soon, into its constituent retail and investment banking arms — already in the process of separation by regulatory ‘ringfencing’ — and either or both coming under clean-sheet new ownership, perhaps finally to expunge the name and the historic eagle from the high street.

How sad that would be, at least for those like me with old connections to the bank. But then again, Barclays has long since ceased to be the Barclays we once knew and respected.

Keep Irish eyes smiling

I’ve just been back to Dublin, one of my favourite cities. It was a good week to visit a rugby-obsessed and generally upbeat Ireland — between Johnny Sexton’s clinching drop-goal against France and a commanding victory over Italy, combined with sunshine and news that the Irish economy grew 7.3

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