i Editor's Letter: Better get used to being outraged


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The Independent Online


The Lloyds Banking Group boss, Antonio Horta-Osorio, has hit the headlines by saying he did not wish to be considered for his 2011 annual bonus. Although it shouldn’t have been surprising news, it was.

We have become used to top bankers thumbing their noses at us and continuing to enrich themselves to a degree that the public finds obscene – despite their complicity in the causes of the recession. Mr Horta-Osorio has just returned from a two-month absence due to “fatigue”which he acknowledged had had an impact on Lloyds.

He said that his bonus should reflect the performance of the group and the “tough financial circumstances that many people are facing”. What’s more shocking: the self-evident, obvious logic of the first half of that statement, or the rare emotional/PR-led second part nonsense? Mr Horta-Osorio is a talented man.

After a stellar academic career, he has built up a glittering CV at Citibank, Goldman Sachs, and Santander in Portugal, Brazil and Spain before becoming UK CEO of Abbey in 2006. He went on to run the UK Santander group before joining Lloyds last January, becoming CEO in March.

Although I know many readers have little sympathy with him, I make no sarcastic comment about his “ leave”. Stress is not taken seriously enough as an illness in the UK, and who are we to comment on other people’s health? However, Mr Horta-Osorio presided over a year in which Lloyds (41 per cent state-owned) saw its share price slump more than 60 per cent. Nevertheless, he could still have claimed a bonus of 225 per cent of his £1.06m annual salary – yes, nearly £2.4m! Outrageous? As we enter bonus season, it’s too late for David Cameron, George Osborne and Vince Cable to grow some balls. So, we’d all better get used to being outraged.