HSBC will come under attack this morning for spending £10bn on bonuses over a four- year period.
The Robin Hood Tax campaign – which wants a financial transaction tax to be imposed on banks to fund a fight against poverty – described the payout as "eye watering" ahead of the bank's annual meeting in London today.
Yesterday it emerged that the Tesco chief executive Phil Clarke did not take home a bonus for the third year in a row. The grocer's annual report also showed that the former chief financial officer Laurie McIlwee will receive a £1m pay-off following his resignation after years of disastrous results.
The Robin Hood campaign said the relative restraint shown by Tesco with respect to its chief executive – his basic pay rose 2 per cent to £1.14m, in line with rises handed to other employees – was in marked contrast to HSBC.
It pointed to figures – culled from the bank's annual reports – showing that the overall remuneration for HSBC's five highest earners was £29m, equivalent to £5.8m each. It said that amounted to 219 times the average UK salary.
David Hillman, a spokesman for the Robin Hood campaign, said: "Such stratospheric rewards put paid to the idea that the banking sector has reformed its ways. Shareholders are angry, the public is angry. It's time the Government got a grip and brought banks' excessive pay under control."
HSBC recently headed off a potential rebellion among investors by reducing a bonus to the chairman Douglas Flint from £2.25m to £1m. The bank said the shares payment had been proposed to take account of his workload overseeing regulatory reform. Critics, however, noted that relations with governments and watchdogs were always part of his job, for which he already receives a £2.25m package.
This year's AGM season has become increasingly fractious, with both Barclays and Standard Chartered having seen pay rebellions. The biggest revolt came when the engineer Kentz saw 49.7 per cent of shareholders voting down its remuneration report. The insurer Hiscox, ITV and BG also endured smaller, although still significant, rebellions.