Barclays CEO Staley will face his shareholders Wednesday amid whistleblower scandal

Key Points
  • CEO Jes Staley is likely to be grilled for his attempt to identify an internal whistleblower, in violation of company rules.
  • One shareholder calls Staley a "throwback to the pre GFC banking culture."
  • Staley remains confident most shareholders will continue to support him.
Jes Staley, CEO of Barclays.
Justin Solomon | CNBC

Barclays CEO Jes Staley will come under the spotlight at the company's annual general meeting this Wednesday as shareholders get the chance to vote on his re-election to the board.

The meeting comes after Institutional Shareholder Services, a proxy advisory firm, recommended that shareholders abstain in protest after Staley's attempt to identify an internal whistleblower, a move that spurred investigations in the United Kingdom by both the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

His position as CEO is not up for debate at the meeting.

Staley maintains he was driven by loyalty to his employees as opposed to anything vindictive. Either way, the main concern for shareholders is whether he was naive, and whether his quality as an outright CEO, rather than a senior departmental management executive, is under question.

One major shareholder, speaking to CNBC, said Monday that "Staley is a throwback to the [pre-financial crisis] banking culture, which privileged the remuneration and status of a small clique of investment bankers ahead of that of their respective firm's and often customers too."

However, that view is likely the exception rather than the rule. Sources close to Staley told CNBC that he remains confident that most major shareholders will back him on Wednesday, which would mark a major step forward for Staley, following significant U.K. press scrutiny in recent weeks.

That said, in the medium term, the bigger concern for Staley is the regulators in the U.K. and whether their investigations yield a response that leaves Chairman John McFarlane no choice but to end Staley's tenure.

Despite McFarlane's public backing of Staley, sources told CNBC that he will be guided by the U.K. regulators during what remains a highly charged political and regulatory climate for banks in the country.

The investigations aren't likely to be concluded for a number of months, meaning that even if Staley clears Wednesday's shareholder hurdle, a question mark will remain over him for the time being.