Thursday, 28 January 2010

Myners plans to write to CIOs over remuneration

Paul Myners is keeping up the pressure on institutional investors to take remuneration reform seriously. Below is from an exchange in the Lords yesterday:
Lord Dykes: My Lords, I thank the Minister and HMG for their commendable efforts to try to get a much more civilised regime here. We are now armed with a much more robust and alert FSA. We have the Walker proposals. We have the EU getting stuck in with its wider framework. We have Stephen Green of the HSBC and BBA with his interesting revelations on dodgy practices to have artificially structured bonuses. Then along comes Goldman Sachs with around 300 £1 million snouts in the trough-that is just the leading partners and leaves aside the traders and what they will get-completely undermining the official effort to get civilisation in this whole regime, and other bankers now, privately and with their cronies, the traders, once again quietly preparing to unleash excessive bonuses when the time comes-

Noble Lords: Question!

Lord Dykes: This is a very important matter. I know the Tories have different views. It is a complete free-for-all. They do not mind at all. Can the Government at long last persuade the big institutions in this country really to insist on proper behaviour?

Lord Myners: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, for his pertinent and correct observations about many aspects of the culture of bonus payments in banks. I, too, was very struck by the comments of Stephen Green, the chairman of HSBC and the British Bankers' Association. He described inflated and distorted structures of bonuses and argued for lower and more rationally calculated figures in the future. The Government's perspective is that bonuses must, first, be a matter for the shareholders, subject to the banks being adequately capitalised. Secondly, the bonus system should not contribute to unmanageable risk. Then it falls to the shareholders. I am afraid that the shareholders, notwithstanding the comments from their trade associations, appear to have been less than fully engaged with that matter.

I intend to write to the chief investment officers of the major UK institutions in the next few days, asking them to share with me the actions they have taken to ensure that boards of directors are aware of their position on the payment of bonuses. It seems extraordinary that, over 10 years, an investor in UK banks will not have had a positive return at all. Clearly, the traders and senior executives of these banks have earned huge amounts. This is a distortion of the consequences of trade to the employees, away from the owners. The owners need to be more concerned and the pension funds need to ask their fund managers, "What are you doing to stop this process?"

Would be interesting to see what kind of replies he gets. Will they be made public, or is an FOI request in order?

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