Barclays more than doubled litigation provisions in 2013

Barclays increased the amount it sets aside for litigation by 142% last year, in a move to hedge itself against several outstanding disputes and enforcement actions by authorities in the UK and US.

The bank’s annual report for 2013, published today (11 February) shows provisions grew from £200m to £485m in the year to 31 December 2013.

News of the provision increase comes as chief executive Anthony Jenkins said the resolution of conduct and litigation issues had hit statutory profit before tax, which fell to £2.9bn for 2013.

The bank’s declining profit was due in part to £331m in charges for litigation and other regulatory penalties for its investment bank in Q4 2013. 

In total, Barclays spent £1.25bn on consultancy, legal and professional fees in 2013, a 6% increase on the £1.18bn spent the previous year, despite the non-recurrence of the £290m penalty incurred in the Libor settlement with US and UK authorities in 2012.

Barclays also acknowledged it is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office over allegedly concealing £322m in payments to Qatari investors after they injected a total £12bn into the bank in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis.

Elsewhere, Barclays said an unrecovered sum of $1.6bn (£1.0bn) from the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy had also been set aside as “a provision against the uncertainty inherent in the litigation and potential post-appeal proceedings”.

The bank also confirmed it had spent £2.98bn of the £3.95bn allotted provision to redress payment protection insurance (PPI) claims by the end of last year.

In recent weeks, a string of lenders have reported reduced profits as a result of escalating litigation provisions and costs.

Two weeks ago, the Royal Bank of Scotland confirmed it had set aside £3bn for compensation and litigation relating to mis-sold products and conduct claims, as part of an expected £7-8bn pre-tax loss for 2013.

In January, Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley both confirmed they had had to set aside additional cash for legal expenses, with the pair racking up Q4 2013 legal costs of €528m (£435.7m) and $1.2bn (£730m).

US banking giant JP Morgan also reported a profit drop for the final quarter of 2013, with earnings hit by $1.1bn (£669m) of legal expenses, including its settlement in relation to the Bernie Madoff investment fraud case.

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