Of Jes Staley and Our Need for Systems

Systems are really everything. If you ask me to boil down the reason why some countries are developed and others are not, I will say the countries that develop have been able to organize themselves around systems that function regardless of the person in charge.

That is why I respect organizations, whether for-profit and not-for-profit, that do not revolve around a single individual. The key-man risk makes me uneasy. Every entity starts with a keyman risk problem, but it should never remain so.

The benefit of having such a system came to the fore in my mind again today as I read that Jes Staley resigned as chief executive of Barclays amid an investigation by British regulators into Staley’s ties to the disgraced financier and convincted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein.

For those who don’t know Jeffrey Epstein. Here is some information: In 2005, police began investigating Epstein after a parent complained that Epstein, 52 years old at the time, had sexually abused her 14-year-old daughter. Epstein pleaded guilty and was convicted in 2008 of procuring a child for prostitution and of soliciting a prostitute. For his 13-month jailtime at the time, federal officials identified 36 girls, some as young as 14 years old, whom Epstein had allegedly sexually abused.

When he finished serving his term, he was rearrested again in July 2019 on federal charges for the sex trafficking of minors. He died in his jail cell on August 10, 2019. The medical examiner ruled the death a suicide. His cause of death have been disputed but that’s for another day.

Epstein is quite an influential man with longterm relationship with various high-profile individuals, including Donald Trump, Leslie Wexner, Bill Clinton, Alan Dershowitz, and Prince Andrew. From 1989 until 2003, Epstein donated more than $139,000 to U.S. Democratic Party federal candidates and committees and over $18,000 to U.S. Republican Party candidates and groups.

Now, about systems. Not only was Epstein influential in politics, he was also influential in the banking circles. As investigators reveal his association with several people in the industry, something familiar continue to happen.

I mentioned that Jes Staley resigned as chief executive of Barclays because of being friends with Epstein, right? Epstein regularly brought Staley business when he ran JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s private bank and the two were close professionally, a person familiar with the matter has previously said. Stanley resigned even though he said his relationship with Epstein “began to taper off as I left JPM and contact became much less frequent in 2013, 2014,” before ending in 2015, before he took up his role at Barclays. The board was not ready to listen to him.

Staley’s exit from one of the world’s biggest banks follows that of the billionaire Leon Black, who left the private equity firm Apollo earlier this year amid a review of his relationship with Epstein. Black’s exit followed that of Les Wexner, who resigned as CEO of Victoria’s Secret parent L Brands last year after his long-time friendship with Epstein became publicized.

Note that they resigned because they were friends or associated with a criminal. In Nigeria, it’s totally different. On March 8, 2016, 34 persons were killed in the Lekki Gardens Estate building collapse. The state government argued that the collapsed building had been sealed by the Lagos State Building Control Agency and served contravention notice for exceeding the approved floors, but Lekki Gardens continued construction. Till now, Richard Nyong continues to be the MD.

Systems.

Were Jes Staley in Nigeria, he would not have resigned, but if Femi Osibona, owner of the 21-storey building which collapsed this week in Lagos killing 22 people (and counting) in a sane clime, he would not just let go of his position, he would cool off in jail.

What do you think would happen to Femi Osibona who openly showed his dislike for professionals on television? I leave you to guess.