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Revealed: Barclays' Whistleblowing Reforms

(c) Sky News 2012

Barclays (LSE: BARC.L - news) has embarked on a root-and-branch overhaul of its whistle-blowing arrangements in the wake of the Libor-rigging scandal that plunged the bank into crisis.

I have learned that Barclays is considering outsourcing the handling of the hotline it operates to allow employees to alert senior managers to potential malpractice. Such a move would be significant and break with established industry practices.

The disclosure of Barclays' review was made in its submission to the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, which is expected to make a number of recommendations on reforming the sector by the end of the year.

The Commission was set up following a summer of scandal, which saw Barclays lose its chairman, chief executive and chief operating officer after being fined more than £290m for attempting to manipulate the benchmark interbank borrowing rate Libor over several years.

Since the bank was fined by regulators in the UK and the US, significant evidence has emerged demonstrating widespread knowledge both inside and outside Barclays during the period in which the rate-fixing was taking place.

In its submission to the inquiry, Barclays said:

"One way in which banks ensure there is an outlet for employees to raise concerns, and where they do not feel able to do so via line management, is whistle-blowing. Whistle-blowing arrangements have operated for many years and are frequently subject to internal and external audit. Barclays' policy on whistle-blowing allows all employees to report concerns in good faith without fear of reprisal or any other detrimental or discriminatory action taken against them, and provides the means, including dedicated hotlines, for this to happen.

"But there are always improvements that can be made to this type of process. Barclays is presently reviewing its whistle-blowing arrangements, including whether outsourcing the operation of its whistle-blowing hotline would improve its effectiveness and the number and quality of concerns that employees raise. Evidence demonstrating that employees are deterred from raising concerns because the hotline is operated internally is hard to come by."

People close to Barclays said that disciplinary proceedings relating to employees who were implicated in the Libor scandal were drawing to a close, although they suggested that a public announcement about the outcome of those proceedings was unlikely.

Despite Barclays' efforts to move on from the crisis through the appointment of a new management team and the launch of an independent probe of its business practices and culture, the bank's reputation was dragged back into the mire yesterday.

The Treasury Select Committee released documents showing that the Financial Services Authority had specifically warned Barclays that its Libor investigation could prompt a change in its view about the leadership of Bob Diamond, former chief executive, despite suggestions from Marcus Agius, the departing chairman, that the opposite had been true.

All of the major banks and consumer groups have submitted evidence to the Parliamentary Commission. As Sky News revealed last month, Barclays has recommended the establishment of a Chartered Institute of Bankers that would allow those guilty of malpractice to be struck off.

Virgin Money, meanwhile, has called for the Commission to recommend a full split of retail and investment banks.

Barclays declined to comment today. Separately, the Libor reform review being headed by Martin Wheatley, chief executive-designate of the Financial Conduct Authority, is to report its findings next Friday.