Barclays CEO Jes Staley is being investigated over his ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, his second run-in with British regulators since he joined the bank in 2015.
The bank said regulators are probing how Mr Staley characterised his relationship with Epstein, the convicted sex offender who died in his prison cell last year.
It is another distraction for Barclays as it faces additional challenges to meet profit goals. In 2018, Staley was fined for his attempts to uncover a whistle-blower.
"I deeply regret having had a relationship with Jeffrey Epstein," Staley (63) said as Barclays reported fourth-quarter results. Barclays said the CEO retains the "full confidence" of the bank's board.
Staley, a former senior banker at JPMorgan Chase, was among several prominent financiers whose ties to Epstein came under the spotlight after his arrest. Epstein died after he was arrested last year on charges of sex-trafficking minors. Starting in 2000, Epstein regularly brought Mr Staley business when he ran JPMorgan's private bank.
"The investigation is actually focused on transparency, and whether I was transparent and open with the bank and with the board with respect to my relationship with Jeffrey Epstein," Mr Staley said.
"It's clear in my own mind, going all the way back to 2015 when I joined Barclays, I have been very transparent with the bank and have been very willing and open to discuss the relationship I had with him."
The probe started in December, Mr Staley said. Barclays said earlier that Mr Staley "volunteered and gave to certain executives, and the chairman, an explanation of his relationship with Mr Epstein." The bank also used "the support of external counsel" to review Mr Staley's account of events.
The lender's shares fell 2.6pc in London yesterday morning.
The revelation overshadowed fourth-quarter results. Barclays kept its profitability target for 2020, but warned it will be challenging to achieve given macro-economic uncertainty and low interest rates.
The investment bank, a centrepiece of Staley's strategy since he took over in 2015 - and a frequent target for criticism by activist investor Edward Bramson - posted revenue in line with analysts' estimates.
"The regulatory review is bound to raise questions regarding potential repercussions for Staley," said John Cronin, an analyst at Goodbody in Dublin. "This could put Barclays on slightly weaker ground in the context of any renewed push on the part of the activist shareholder."