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

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

Share

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

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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
“I just wanted some chicken wings,” Tan Shen told the assembled media. “But once I got in there ... I decided I needed time to think.”  

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay's Chris Martin “consciously uncoupled” in March  

My best and worst stories of 2014

Simmy Richman
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015