Mon, Apr 23, 2012 - Page 10 News List

Global banks feel heat from shareholders over pay

AFP, LONDON

Some of the world’s biggest banks face increased pressure from institutional shareholders to curb the pay and bonuses of top executives amid severe under-performance following the financial crisis.

Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond moved to quell a shareholder revolt at its annual general meeting on Friday by offering to change the terms of his latest annual bonus worth £2.7 million (US$4.3 billion).

Diamond and Barclays Group finance director Chris Lucas on Thursday agreed not to receive half of their all-shares bonus award for last year if certain performance targets were not met within three years.

Also last week, shareholders in US bank Citigroup refused to endorse a pay plan for Citigroup chief executive Vikram Pandit and four other officials, dealing a blow to a management that has failed to lift the bank’s value in recent years.

“This whole emotive issue seems to have moved on from public outcry to shareholder pressure on both sides of the [Atlantic],” said Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers. “The latest development from Barclays is another acknowledgment from the banks that remuneration is to be more closely correlated to overall group profitability.”

Citigroup shareholders rejected the board’s compensation plan for the top five executives, which included a US$14.9 million package for Pandit for last year, after he kept his salary in 2010 at just US$1.

Pandit is under pressure, with the bank’s shares stuck below US$40 since August last year, compared with the US$500-plus level it achieved before the financial crisis struck in 2007.

Barclays’ performance is also failing to satisfy its major shareholders.

Feeling the heat ahead of its annual general meeting, the bank said it was “fully committed to -ensuring that a greater proportion of income and profits flow to shareholders, notwithstanding that it operates within the constraints of a competitive market.”

Shareholder rebellion over Barclays’ executive pay intensified early this month after leading investor group, Pensions & Investment Research Consultants (Pirc), said Diamond should not receive “any bonus at all.”

Pirc advised its members to vote against the bank’s remuneration report at Friday’s meeting. However, another key shareholder, financial group Standard Life, welcomed last week’s move by Diamond and said it would back the bank’s plan.

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