Damp squib for Barclays

Big bank steps up security to foil bombers and rebellious investors

They came expecting fireworks, but in the end the directors at Barclays Bank left yesterday's annual general meeting with nothing more than a series of shareholder complaints about poor customer service ringing in their ears, writes Patrick Tooher.

Barclays' annual meetings have long been the focus for pressure groups since anti-apartheid activists launched a concerted campaign in the 1980s to stop the bank doing business in South Africa.

This year interest in the meeting was heightened after Barclays recently revealed it was the target of 16-month, 25-bomb campaign by an extortionist dubbed ``Mardi Gra'' and security was tight as shareholders gathered at the Queen Elizabeth II conference hall in central London.

Security this year was tighter than usual, with shareholders subjected to the checks more associated with airports.

Inside, the two-hour meeting was dominated by Struggle Against Financial Exploitation, a shareholder pressure group formed four years ago "to highlight and campaign against unacceptable behaviour by Barclays Bank and other major financial institutions". The main charges related to Barclays' attempts to recover debts.

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