Speculation is mounting that Barclays' finance director was preparing to leave the bank six months earlier than planned, leaving the bank without a key boardroom figure during its £6bn cash call.
The departure of Chris Lucas had been expected early next year and was first announced in February when it was said that he had health problems which had a bearing on his decision to retire but had not affected his ability to do his job. His deteriorating health is said to be the reason for the acceleration in his retirement and last month, Lucas was notably absent from the bank's half year results presentation to journalists when it announced the cash call.
The retirement of the 52 year old could now take place as soon as this week, leaving the bank without a vital boardroom director during the crucial fundraising which is not being formally launched until next month.
His replacement was named a month ago as Tushar Morzaria who is moving to London from New York to take up the crucial post in the autumn and had been expecting a long handover period with Lucas who was intending to stay to see the full year results through, in February.
Lucas, who started discussing his retirement with the new chief executive, Antony Jenkins, before Christmas last year, is also one of four current and former directors being investigated by City regulators over disclosures made during its the 2008 fund raisings that prevented the bank taking a taxpayer bailout. Barclays would not comment last night.
Alongside its results for the first half of 2013, the bank also revealed that it had been informed of the findings of the investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority, and was contesting the findings.
At the time Jenkins refused to elaborate on the FCA findings and the bank's formal statement said that it expected 'further developments in the near term'.
While the new finance director Morzaria is joining in the autumn – by which time the cash call is due to be completed – he is not scheduled to join the board until January which appears to leave Jenkins as the only full-time executive on the bank's board. It is thought possible that Morzaria could join the board earlier.
While investors knew Lucas would be leaving, they would have been expecting the finance director to play a significant role during the cash call which is taking the form of a rights issue.
Under the terms announced last month investors will be offered one share at 185p for every four shares they own and the bank will raise £5.8bn after fees have been paid to the investment banks guaranteeing the share issue.
The cash call is taking place after the Prudential Regulation Authority set a tougher capital test for the bank requiring it to meet a leverage test. Jenkins, promoted 11 months ago in the wake of the Libor rigging scandal, has argued that the rights issue is 'about doing the best for our shareholders'.
He replaced Bob Diamond who had quit following the £290m fine for rigging Libor, along with the former chairman Marcus Agius and chief operating officer Jerry del Missier.
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