The real mystery is how placidly we accept the scandal of bankers' bonuses

It's a subject the Government wants everyone to forget about


The sun is streaming in, there are three weeks until the clocks go forward, and there is a sense of new beginnings. However, there is a depressing familiarity to the news agenda as the floods of winter begin to recede from the memories of all but those directly affected.

The West’s lame helplessness in the face of Putin’s territorial machinations, the worsening Stephen Lawrence revelations, or the latest trial of a household name on sex charges? Then there’s bankers’ bonuses, the subject the Government wishes would we would forget.

Here’s the first paragraph of the BBC’s report about the Co-op: “The Co-operative Group is set to give pay rises and bonuses to its senior staff despite the near collapse of its banking division.”

If that’s not bad enough: “The Co-op… expected to report the worst losses in its history this month, said this would reflect the greater experience of its new top team.”

We are told that the Co-op claims “executive pay was in line with comparable firms”, while recommending its new-ish chief executive should get a £3.66m package. That’s Euan Sutherland, the CEO who said that last year was the worst in the Co-op’s 150-year history and that it “had lost its way”.

It’s not just the Co-op. The usual justification for these payouts and packages is that this is what you need to pay to attract top talent. That would have been the same justification at the time for the previous management team: former CEO Peter Marks (£1.3m base a year), his predecessor Neville Richardson (£4.6m package in his last year) and ex-Chairman, Peter Flowers, the disgraced former Methodist minister, who got the job despite a relative lack of banking experience and then had to resign in an alleged sex and drugs scandal.

Meanwhile there’s Barclays where profits are down 32 per cent, with 7,000 job cuts, and £2.4bn in bonuses); RBS (losses of £8.2bn, £3m in shares to new boss) and Lloyds, (nearly £10bn set aside for PPI mis-selling), where boss Antonio Horta-Osorio gets a £1.6m bonus. The staff? A 2 per cent rise.

I’m in favour of bonuses as a reward for achievement. Staff should be incentivised to achieve, but incentivised in the manner of (yes, it’s a cliché) John Lewis, which this month announced all staff would receive a 15 per cent bonus (two per cent down on last year). You may also know that the highest-paid director at John Lewis cannot earn more than 75 times the staff’s average salary.

The European Commission is looking at proposals that would force the 10,000 stock market-listed companies across the EU to reveal similar pay ratios. This would make it easier to compare bosses' pay and highlight those who are paid excessively in relation to their peers. It might make for some ugly reading.

Over the past decade, median FTSE chief executives’ pay has risen by 243 per cent at a time of wage stagnation for the majority of the population. It is not just the bankers. But those other FTSE companies have not required multi-billion pound bail-outs.

None of this is new, but there’s been no legislation despite all the Government’s earlier rhetoric. It’s difficult to see what form it could actually take. That’s why nothing changes. The real mystery is not that people are still furious about bankers’ bonuses, it’s that they are not even angrier.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Election catch-up: I’m not saying the Ed stone is bad – it is so terrible I am lost for words

John Rentoul

Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living