Sunday, 11 January 2009

Myners on the money

There's some good stuff in today's Observer. First thing to catch my eye was obviously what City minister Paul Myners has to say about the role of institutional investors as owners of the banks:

"I'm disappointed there's not more evidence that institutional investors have been seized by the challenge of addressing the shortcomings that have emerged in corporate governance as a result of this crisis," the minister for the City of London said.

"Institutional shareholders need to be asking themselves: were they appropriately engaged in asking questions about the risk appetite of our banks? Were they asking sufficient questions about competency of directors, and were they appropriately engaged in examining and approving compensation cultures?"

Myners expressed disappointment that organisations such as the Association of British Insurers have not taken a harder line against quoted banks.

"There must be a challenge put to investors that they failed to query the irrational exuberance that we now see as characterising the age of irresponsibility. Now there's a danger of 'reckless caution', and I don't see evidence they are much concerned about that either. If banks now lack the self-confidence to extend credit, this is going to cause further damage in the portfolios of our institutional investors."

This is great stuff, and a welcome change of tone from some of the stuff the govt was coming out with last year about exec pay. I thought Myners would be a good appointment in this role, let's hope there's some policy forthcoming to back up the rhetoric. A few ideas he could consider - why not get the Investor Governance Group set up to take forward the Myners Principles process to undertake a study of the damage done by the crisis to pension funds, and whether better practice could have mitigated it. And why not call on the investment institutions to fund some research in the behavioural effects of incentive pay?

Actually on this latter subject there's another decent rant from Simon Caulkin who says:
As we now know, "performance pay" was a misnomer, an incentive for financial engineering that has destroyed value on a heroic scale. But it's not just shareholder value that has suffered. By severing any common interest between top managers and the rest of the workforce, fake performance pay has fatally undermined the internal compact that makes organisations thrive in the long term.

Finally, Nick Cohen's piece on Joan Bakewell is also worth a read, since it gets into the thorny issue of intergenerational tension as a result of the ageing population. The interesting thing about it is that he (rightly) highlights David Willetts as one Tory who really has thought about this stuff, and he also sees the recent Tory policy annnouncement on tax breaks for savers as a pitch for this vote. Would be interesting to hear what WIlletts genuinely thinks of the policy.

1 comment:

Paulie said...

I'm not normally keen to comment on the character of politicians, but I'd be intereested to know what DW thinks of a lot of his party's policies.

He seems something of a fish out of water in The Stupid Party.