By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Barclays Plc was sued on Friday in a proposed U.S. class action in which shareholders claimed they were defrauded in connection with the British bank’s sale of $17.6 billion more debt than regulators had allowed.
A complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan by two Florida pension plans seeks to hold Barclays responsible for declines in the prices of its American depositary receipts (ADR)as costs mounted over the blunder.
The complaint said Barclays made “materially false and misleading” assurances in its annual reports that its internal controls over financial reporting were effective.
It also said the bank overstated profit, and understated operating and “litigation and conduct” expenses, by failing to disclose the overissuance in its 2021 earnings releases.
“The failure to have controls in place to account for the number of securities issued against the number of securities registered is such an elementary failure of internal control that is so obvious as to be deliberately reckless,” the complaint said.
Barclays declined to comment. Chief Executive C.S. Venkatakrishnan and his predecessor Jes Staley are among the other defendants.
The bank revealed in March that it had sold $15.2 billion more structured and exchange-traded notes than the $20.8 billion U.S. regulators had authorized. In July, the bank increased the oversold amount by $2.4 billion.
Barclays offered to buy back the excess securities, and on July 28 said it set aside about 1.59 billion pounds (now $1.73 billion) related to the overissuance.
The bank said on Sept. 15 that investors had submitted claims covering $7 billion of the securities.
Friday’s lawsuit by the City of North Miami Beach Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Retirement Plan and City of North Miami Beach General Employees’ Retirement Plan seeks damages for Barclays ADR holders from Feb. 18, 2021 to March 25, 2022.
The case is City of North Miami Beach Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Retirement Plan et al v. Barclays Plc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 22-08172.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Chris Reese)