Barclays has been engulfed by a fresh crisis after thousands of files containing confidential customer details were stolen from the bank and sold on to the black market.
The under-fire lender, which reports its annual results on Tuesday, said it had launched an internal investigation and was co-operating with regulators to limit any potential damage.
The news emerged after an anonymous whistleblower handed a memory stick with the personal data of 2,000 Barclays’ customers to a national newspaper, claiming that information on a further 25,000 was also available.
The whistleblower told the Mail on Sunday that the files could be sold for up to £50 each and then used by third parties to manipulate unsuspecting victims into making dodgy investments. The data is understood to contain information on customer’s salaries, savings and mortgages as well as passport details and national insurance numbers. The results of psychometric tests, for instance, could be used by fraudsters to judge a victim’s risk appetite.
Barclays said: “Our initial investigations suggest this is isolated to customers linked to our Barclays Financial Planning business which we ceased operating as a service in 2011. Based on what we have seen, this appears to be data from 2008 or earlier.
“Protecting customers’ data is a top priority and we take this issue extremely seriously. This appears to be a criminal action and we will co-operate with the authorities on pursuing the perpetrator.”
The bank, which was hit with a £290m penalty in 2012 for rigging Libor, could now be fined by both The Information Commissioner’s Office and the Financial Conduct Authority, which said it was helping Barclays with its investigation.
The timing of the scandal is particularly embarrassing because the lender is planning to reveal six new “good citizen” objectives when it unveils its results. Reports over the weekend suggested it will also outline plans to sell off £150bn of bad loans and reduce costs by a further £1.7bn, which could result in job losses.
However, annual profits are expected to be £5.8bn and Barclays is expected to pay bonuses of about £2.4bn – 10 per cent more than last year. Antony Jenkins, its chief executive, has already waived his £2.8m bonus because of ongoing problems at the bank and the fact that it was forced into a £6bn rights issue by regulators last year.
City headlines are likely to be dominated by the banks over the coming days with Lloyds Banking Group – the part-nationalised lender – also reporting. Lloyds is expected to increase its bonus pot from £360m to £400m with its chief executive Antonio Horta-Osario picking up about £1.5m.
Andrew Bailey, Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, is also expected to throw the spotlight back on Neville Richardson’s stewardship of the Co-op Bank when he ap-pears before MPs on the Treasury Committee on Tuesday.