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Business Comment

James Moore: Now US investors put the boot into bankers

Outlook Talking of bankers, it seems that now American investors are squaring up for a fight over their pay.

The US has been behind the curve here despite some remuneration packages that beggar belief. But thanks to the Dodd-Frank reforms, shareholders now have a UK-style advisory vote on them. And they're proving much quicker to make use of it than we Limeys, although you do wonder how Vikram Pandit's plan at Citigroup was voted down by only 55 per cent of investors: the bank wanted to throw him $15m (£9.3m) despite the fact that the US Federal Reserve gave its ability to withstand a financial shock a big fat F.

Apparently Citigroup directors plan to meet with investors to "discuss" their concerns. What is there to discuss?

The American bank analyst Mike Mayo noted in his book Exile on Wall Street that Citi snuck out its new pay plan late on a Friday before the 2011 President's Day holiday weekend. In other words, when half of Wall Street's attention was focused on Madison Square Garden and the prospects of the perennially under achieving New York Knicks.

Therefore the fact that, as Mr Mayo notes, Citi executives would likely get gazillions for simply keeping things ticking over passed by with little comment. That has changed.

Pirc, the corporate governance watchdog, has been worrying about the influence of US investors on Britain's stockmarket and what it might mean for reining in some of the more flagrant remuneration abuses in UK boardrooms. Maybe it needn't be quite so concerned because this affair will help ram home the message to remuneration committees that the world has changed.

It has been fairly commonplace for some companies with global operations to claim that it is only here that a big fuss is made about boardroom pay. The Citigroup vote suggests otherwise.