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Serious Fraud Office: UK whistleblowers deserve better

The Barclays case may have saved the SFO, but the UK fraud agency needs to change the way it deals with whistleblowers.


The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) finally did something that many had been anticipating for years: charging bankers for crisis-era wrongdoing. The SFO last month charged four Barclays executives with fraud in connection to injections of cash they received from Qatar and Abu Dhabi to stave off a UK government bail-out during the 2008 financial crisis.

But the wrongful termination suit brought by one of those charged, Richard Boath, has been on hold since a postponement last November, following arguments over whether the case should be heard in private. The result could yet be a very serious indictment of the way the SFO handles – or mishandles, as Boath claims – whistleblowers.

Boath, the former head of Barclays’ EMEA financial institutions group, claims that Barclays fired him after the SFO showed the bank a private transcript of interviews he gave to criminal investigators looking into Barclays’ 2008 capital raising. If Boath is successful in the case, the size of the resulting award is unlimited.

The SFO, (or “Serious Farce Office”, as satirical magazine Private Eye likes to call it) has a history littered with failed prosecutions and scandals, as when it admitted in 2013 that it had sent thousands of pages of evidence, tapes and data files to the wrong owner. 

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