July 16, 2012 / 4:38 PM / 5 years ago

Barclays faces Spanish legal fight over share deal

MADRID, July 16 (Reuters) - Two top Barclays executives in Spain have become embroiled in a legal scrap over how the bank priced a deal to buy out minority shareholders last year, ramping up public scrutiny on the firm after a damaging rate rigging scandal.

The president of Barclays in Spain, Carlos Martinez, and the unit’s chief executive officer for retail banking, Jaime Echegoyen, will on Sept. 20 appear as defendants in a local court case brought by an investor, two legal and Barclays sources said.

Britain’s Barclays bought out in December the 0.08 percent of the minority shares in its Spanish unit it did not own at the end of last year. It offered 1.5 euros per share in an offer document published on Nov. 8, when the Barclays share price closed in London at 182 pence, equivalent then to 2.12 euros.

The price of the deal was approved by Spain’s economy ministry and set with the help of an external auditor, a source at Barclays said.

The unnamed investor is demanding 200,000 euros in compensation, after accusing the bank of pushing through an “abusive deal” at a time when the share price was weak and hit by euro zone worries, according to a legal source.

The transaction itself, meanwhile, came about after Barclays was told by British regulators to tighten its grip on its subsidiaries and ensure it owned the full 100 percent of the Spanish unit.

Barclays declined to comment.

The court case comes at an embarrassing time for the bank, after its role in manipulating key interbank lending rates during the financial crisis came to light in settlements with regulators last month.

The bank’s boss Bob Diamond and other top executives resigned in the wake of a scandal that has shaken the industry and created a political storm in Britain.

Barclays, which has been under scrutiny over its tax affairs in Britain before, is now also the subject of a tax inspection by Spanish authorities.

The source at the bank said this was a routine industry check, and no specific investigation had been opened into practices at Barclays.

Spanish business newspaper Expansion reported on Monday that the Treasury Ministry was inspecting Barclays Capital for its tax treatment of dividend payments.

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