The boss of banking trade body UK Finance faces being dragged into a sexism row after he was accused in a blockbuster court case of making “deeply unpleasant personal comments” about financier Amanda Staveley.
Stephen Jones is alleged to have made the remarks in an explosive email to a colleague while working as a senior banker at Barclays during the financial crisis.
Ms Staveley is suing the bank for £1.6bn over claims her firm PCP Capital Partners and the Abu Dhabi investors who it represented were treated unfairly during a 2008 emergency fundraising to stave off collapse.
The case could pose a reputational risk for Mr Jones, who runs Britain’s biggest financial trade group and has been at the forefront of City efforts to respond on Brexit and coronavirus on behalf of the major banks.
Addressing the High Court on the first day of a civil trial expected to last for weeks, Ms Staveley’s barrister Joe Smouha QC said the case would lay bare the “pre-global financial crisis arrogance” of the banking industry, where the focus was on bonuses, money and “unfortunately also sexism and misogyny”.
The existence of an email sent by Mr Jones was revealed as part of PCP’s written opening statement to the court, which said that a “significant theme of Barclays’ evidence is concerned with seeking to criticise the professional skill and competence of Ms Staveley”.
The document added: “This is regrettably consistent with some attitudes – reflected in some deeply unpleasant personal comments about her – professed by some of Barclays’ most senior staff at the time.”
“See, for example, Mr [Stephen] Jones’ thoroughly unpleasant comments about Ms Staveley” to a colleague on 27 October 2008.
The text of the message is not included in the opening statement, but could be revealed during questions directed at Mr Jones when he appears as a witness next month.
Mr Jones has championed efforts to improve City gender equality while working at UK Finance. He has backed the Women in Finance Charter, which seeks to secure more senior roles for female bankers, and in a speech last September said: “As an industry we have crucial role to play in ensuring we recruit, build and nurture a diverse and inclusive workforce.”
The 55-year-old added: “It may not be fashionable to be proud of this industry. But I am, without equivocation. Fashion be damned.”