Insights from the UK and beyond
Time for salary cap for bankers?
It’s not a great time to be a banker at the moment with financial apocalypse making the pin-striped gents probably more loathed than estate agents or journalists. Thousands of them have lost their jobs and those that are still in paid employment are finding that their renumeration packages are coming under ever greater public scrutiny.
Over the weekend reports that the Royal Bank of Scotland was about to award its staff a billion pounds in bonuses prompted outrage at a time of soaring unemployment and with a deep recession looming. Most people would agree it is a no-brainer that a company that has just posted the biggest-ever financial loss in British corporate history, required a 20-billion-pound government bail-out to stay afloat last year and is now nearly 70-percent state-owned should not be allowing its staff to be trousering huge bonuses.
The banks say they are bound by contract to pay the bonuses and that they need to retain key staff.
But that argument has got the former deputy prime minister John Prescott so riled he has even launched a public campaign against the bonus payments on Facebook. “This is morally and economically outrageous,” wrote Prescott. “If we hadn’t bailed them out to save homeowners and businesses, their contracts would be worth nothing as they’d be out of work.”
Over in America U.S. President Barack Obama has set a $500,000 annual cap on executive pay and imposed other restrictions on companies that receive government aid. Chancellor Alistair Darling has said it is too early to follow Obama’s lead, despite the European Commission urging states to cap bank pay.
Is it time for banks that are receiving government help to be subjected to a salary cap or would that policy be counterproductive to economic revival?