Investment banks set for bonus curb talks

Lord Myners to call in global groups to follow UK banks' lead over pay
  • @MrNickClark

International investment banks are preparing for a call from the Treasury in the coming days, hauling them in for meetings to sign up to proposals curbing excessive bonuses for their top staff.

Some of the world's largest investment banking groups, including JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, are expected to meet Treasury Secretary Lord Myners "within a week or two," insiders said.

A spokesman for the Treasury also confirmed: "Lord Myners will be meeting with the international investment banks over the issue of bonuses." Sources at several of the investment banks said they were yet to hear from the Treasury.

This follows last month's move by the UK Government to impose strict bonus limits on domestic banks following last month's meeting of the Group of 20 leaders in Pittsburgh.

The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, pledged to tackle the "bonus culture" during the Labour Party conference in Brighton, especially in the run-up to bonus season, which starts in earnest this quarter. Bonuses are considered to have encouraged excess risk-taking before the credit crunch.

HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Chartered all agreed last week to sign up to the proposals as Britain became the first G20 nation to implement the global reforms.

Mr Darling met the banks' chairs of remuneration committees on Wednesday, who said they would reform their structures by the end of the year. The measures cover all senior executives and employees that work in divisions that affect the banks' risk exposures.

The banks said they would work with the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the City watchdog, to adopt the reforms adding they recognised that "all G20 nations have also committed to their implementation to ensure a level playing field".

The next set of meetings with international groups are introductory. They will outline the Treasury's UK agreement and how to go press ahead with global banks . "It will obviously be more complicated because of cross-border regulations," one insider said.

However, Lloyds Banking Group, the part-nationalised bank, yesterday hit back at reports it had agreed the next round of bonuses to its senior management to be unveiled in the new year. Mindful of the outrage over the pay package awarded to Stephen Hester, the chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland earlier this year, sources close to the group said that it had "other priorities at the moment".

Lloyds said in a statement it had previously announced an intention to undertake a review of the company's remuneration policies including those for executives. "We are currently in the very early stages of this review and no decisions have been taken," it said.

The issue of bonuses will be among Mr Darling's priorities as he returns from Istanbul, where the annual meeting of the the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been taking place.

It emerged this weekend that the UK and France have pledged to hand the IMF $4bn (£2.5bn) to provide support for poorer countries in crisis in the wake of the downturn. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the IMF's managing director, called the decision "historic," adding that the loan facility for low-income countries would have collapsed in weeks without the injection. The British taxpayers will not fund the facility, which supports countries that cannot pay for imports following the global financial downturn, and has an interest rate of zero, as it is drawing on currency reserves given to them by the IMF.

Christine Lagarde, the French minister of economic affairs, said: "Our respective $2bn are not a huge amount relative to the magnitude of financing that is needed, but this is indicative of what we can do and others can eventually follow." This follows Mr Strauss-Kahn's call last Friday for a tax on financial services firms to help fund poorer nations. He said: "Considering the financial sector is creating a lot of systemic risks for the global economy, it is fair that such a sector pay some part of its resources to help in mitigating the risks they are creating." Mr Darling is currently studying these proposals.