Barclays’ email raises questions on banks’ ‘no-poach agreement’

An email sent by a senior Barclays executive to colleagues around the world last year detailed a one-year ban on hiring rivals from JPMorgan Chase, undermining denials from the banks that they had come to a no-poach agreement after a string of high-level moves.

The US Department of Justice has been examining whether Barclays promised JPMorgan that it would not hire its staff following several senior defections. No-poach agreements can be illegal under US antitrust laws.

In September 2016, a managing director at Barclays’ New York office sent an email — seen by the Financial Times — explaining that the two banks “have agreed to a 1-year ban on hiring any JPMC employee by Barclays” in key areas such as in corporate and investment banking.

The email, sent to more than 20 senior colleagues, goes on to say that following a review of pending offers by Barclays to JPMorgan staff, one “unfortunately will be pulled from Wealth UK”.

However, five days after the initial email, the same New York-based Barclays managing director sent a six-line message, telling recipients to disregard the original email.

JPMorgan said in June that there “have been no improper agreements” and on Friday it said it was standing by its earlier statement. Insiders at Barclays continue to strenuously deny that there was ever any agreement with JPMorgan.

Both emails were sent to some of Barclays’ top managers, including Mike Bagguley, the chief operating officer of its investment bank, and Richard Taylor, its co-head of the investment bank.

The second message said the initial email “was incorrect in all respects,” before adding: “There is no ban on hiring from JPM and any existing or pending offers should proceed.”

The DoJ declined to comment on the emails. The department previously asked Barclays for more information on discussions between its top management and senior JPMorgan executives. Barclays’ hiring spree followed the appointment of Jes Staley, himself an alumnus of the Wall Street bank, as chief executive of the UK lender in December 2015.

No formal investigation regarding ‘no-poach agreements’ has been launched and it is common for the DoJ to ask for details and then decide no further action is warranted.

While there were requests from the DoJ some months ago, inquiries have gone quiet in recent months, people familiar with the situation said. They added, however, that there had not been any formal notice from the DoJ that they would close the matter.

Defectors from JPMorgan to Barclays last year included Tim Throsby, head of the British group’s corporate and investment bank; Paul Compton, who was named as group chief operating officer; and CS Venkatakrishnan, who became its chief risk officer.

The FT reported last year that Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan, called John McFarlane, Barclays’ chairman, to complain about the defections, and that Mr Staley then spoke to Daniel Pinto, the head of JPMorgan’s investment bank.