Barclays has launched an investigation after a whistleblower warned of serious errors in the way taxation of interest paid to those handed payment protection insurance compensation is being calculated by the bank.
Barclays confirmed the inquiry in the wake of allegations tabled by a former contractor, Charlie Boyle, who has alerted the Financial Conduct Authority’s whistleblowing hotline to the issues.
Mr Boyle, who was a team leader handling financial reconciliations – or making the numbers add up – said his department was crippled by a “political and target-obsessed approach”. He said that all too frequently those numbers contained errors, and that the figures could have been misreported to Barclays’ board, including the chief executive, Antony Jenkins.
He believes a clear-up of the operation could take at least two years – even if PPI complaints and claims were to stop tomorrow.
In emails sent to senior Barclays figures, he described what he said was a “haemorrhaging of exceptions” over the taxation of interest payments. The team handling tax at source, he said, was not recruited or up to speed until late February, after HM Revenue & Customs changed the way the tax on PPI compensation interest was handled in October.
Of his time working at Barclays, he says: “I spent hours doing completely useless online courses about how ethical the bank now is. It says it all that having just completed those courses I was handed a 30 per cent pay cut.
“But the real problem is that on the ground, the place is still suffused with politics, back-biting and HR bullying. Like it or lump it was an expression that stood out in my mind. They simply don’t seem to value their employees.”
On Thursday he raised his allegations directly with a representative of the bank.
In a statement, the bank said: “Barclays takes any claims of bullying or malpractice seriously, and as a matter of course investigates fully, as we have done in this case.
“Mr Boyle was a contractor who decided to leave Barclays following discussions regarding a company-wide reduction in contractor rates. He made no allegations of bullying prior to his decision to leave, and a full investigation by a senior independent official has found no evidence to support these claims.
“In October 2013, HMRC introduced a requirement for banks to deduct tax on interest on PPI payments to customers. Barclays put systems in place to meet this requirement. In addition, Barclays carried out reconciliations to check the right amount of tax was paid.
“However, in some cases the proper reconciliation did not occur for a short period. In these cases Barclays took a prudent view to make payment of any unreconciled amounts to HMRC to ensure there was no underpayment of tax. Mr Boyle may not have been aware of this decision. Once again, Mr Boyle did not voice concerns on this matter until after his decision to leave.”