Some years ago, what was then the emerging scandal of executive pay gave rise to the brief but memorable phenomenon of Cedric the Pig.
This was a real live hog hired by the unions and other protesters, who was brought along to get his snout in the trough outside the annual general meeting of British Gas plc. He was named after Cedric Brown, then chief executive of British Gas. At the time, the nation was outraged that his fellow directors had voted for him to have a £500,000 pay deal.
How times change. Yesterday we learned that a new generation of bosses at one of British Gas’s successor companies, BG Group, were making Cedric look positively famished. Helge Lund, the company’s latest head, is on a £14m salary, with a £12m bonus on top. Lund, who is credited with turning round Norway’s Statoil, could be paid £84m by 2020 if he hits performance targets and earns his full pay and bonuses. Unlike some of his customers, he shouldn’t have too much trouble with the gas bill this winter.
Even the Institute of Directors, an institute not easily given to moral panic, judged this “astronomical” and “simply excessive”. The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, apparently helpless again in the face of such limitless corporate greed, is asking shareholders to vote down the package.
Meanwhile, back on Planet Britain, workers have seen a 10 per cent reduction in the real value of their wages since the start of the recession. The fastest growing major economy in the world is not delivering very much for the average Briton but for the average boss it has become a land of plenty, and the very rich have never had it so good. That does not mean that they should be free from mockery and scorn, however.
Though the original Cedric has long made the ultimate sacrifice for the British pork industry, a successor to the animal needs to be recruited urgently to highlight a new generation of pigginess. We look forward to shaking him by the trotter at the next BG annual meeting.Reuse content