On Feb. 12, Barclays reported 2012 results that included plans to lay off at least 3,700 employees, or about 3% of its workforce. The New York Times reports that the cuts will be primarily in the firm's operations in Europe and Asia. Most notably, in the tax-planning unit that has gained wide criticism for damaging the firm's reputation.
Barclays' new chief executive officer Antony Jenkins said that going back to the old way of doing business is not an option. Jenkins is referring to two key events that hurt the firm over the past year.
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"Seems to Have a Finger in Each Pie"
In July 2012, Barclays agreed to pay $453 million to settle charges that the trading firm participated in a scheme to manipulate two key band lending rates - the most notable being the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). LIBOR affects as much as $350 trillion worth of loans and derivatives around the world, according to CNN.
The fine, according to some, doesn't come close to making up for the billions of losses suffered by banks around the world because of the scandal. (Not that the average consumer is going to shed many tears over banks losing money.)
In 2011, Barclays was under fire for selling payment protection insurance to customers who weren't always eligible for payouts, didn't know they purchased it or didn't understood what they had bought. As a result, Barclays agreed to compensate customers on a "no questions asked" basis for all premiums paid plus interest.
In February, a third scandal emerged. Authorities in the United Kingdom are investigating Barclays' fundraising efforts from Qatar in 2008. Allegations that Barclays loaned Qatar money to purchase shares in itself resulted in Jenkins and chairman David Walker sitting in front of a parliamentary inquiry for two-and-a-half hours.
As inquiry chairman, Andrew Tyrie said, "It doesn't seem to matter what the scandal is, Barclays seems to have a finger in each pie, quite a big one."
Barclays posted a net loss of $1.3 billion in the final three months of 2012 compared to a profit of $556 million in 2011. Without the one-time charges that came because of "having a finger in each pie," Barclays would have seen a fourth-quarter profit of $1.71 billion - double the amount from the previous year. It announced that the restructuring efforts related to the layoffs would cost the firm about $778 million in the first quarter of 2013.
The average bonus paid to employees was down 13% and the company raised its dividend to 8%. The report also stated that employee pay as a proportion of net revenues decreased from 42 to 38% - all signs that the firm is attempting to appear more shareholder friendly.
In addition, the firm announced that it would cut some of its unprofitable and risky trading activities, something of a trend in the banking industry.
The Bottom Line
Jenkins is focused on streamlining the company, repairing its reputation, and closing units that liken back to the days when banks took on too much risk, causing a severe tarnishing of the industry's reputation. A kinder, friendlier Barclays is set to emerge after a difficult 2013.
This commitment, along with an overall uptick in the banking industry, has caused the stock to gain more than 37% of value in the past 52 weeks.
"You should not sell products to customers that are not in their interests," Jenkins said. Seems somewhat obvious, doesn't it?
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