Barclays chief apologises over Bob Diamond pay row

 

The chairman of Barclays apologised to shareholders today as he moved to head off a showdown over the pay of chief executive Bob Diamond.

At the start of the bank's annual meeting, Marcus Agius admitted the bank's bosses "have not done a good enough job in articulating our case".

Mr Diamond received £17.7 million in salary, bonus, benefits and vested long-term share awards last year - despite admitting his bank's performance was "unacceptable".

The meeting was due to hear calls for remuneration committee chairman Alison Carnwath to stand down and for the 2011 pay report to be thrown out.

Mr Agius, who also faces a significant vote against his re-election, said: "I assure you that in the future we will be engaging differently and more purposefully with shareholders in order to ensure that we obtain a broader level of support on remuneration policy and practice."

Outside the meeting at Royal Festival Hall, the bank's bosses had to contend with dozens of protesters from the World Development Movement and Robin Hood Tax campaign.

The Robin Hood campaigners posed with a giant cheque to represent the implied subsidy provided to banks by the taxpayer.

Diarmaid McDonald, 31, with the Robin Hood movement, said: "We should not be held to ransom by the financial sector. They are as much part of this society as we are."

In front of hundreds of shareholders, Mr Agius's speech was interrupted by occasional heckling and sarcastic laughter.

Addressing anger over pay, he said: "There is a significant minority who feel we got some of those judgments wrong in 2011.

"Evidently we have not done a good enough job in articulating our case. In some matters we should have communicated more clearly."

He added: "We recognise the reputational damage that has been caused by the remuneration debate."

Mr Diamond followed the chairman and started by hailing the bank's first quarter results, published yesterday.

The bank recorded a 22% rise in underlying pre-tax profits to £2.4 billion, driven by a strong performance at its UK retail arm.

Turning to pay, Mr Diamond said: "We recognise the shareholder concerns and we're committed to making further progress."

In addition, a £5.7 million tax payment made on Mr Diamond's behalf when he moved from the US to London to take up the role sparked particular anger among investor groups.

The American banker tried to win support by offering to take half of his £2.7 million all-shares bonus for 2011 if certain performance targets are not met within three years.

Mr Diamond was followed by Ms Carnwath, who introduced herself as "the new girl on the block".

Defending pay, Ms Carnwath said: "We reduced awards significantly in 2011."

In response, one shareholder heckled "Not enough", triggering laughter and applause from the auditorium.

Ms Carnwath went on: "We will continue to seek to push down remuneration levels in the context of the environment in which we operate."

Ms Carnwath was met with further taunts, such as "Why have you only just woken up to this?"

Mr Agius later called for the meeting to be held in a "responsible" and "adult" manner.

PA

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