January 31, 2012

Barclays, HSBC Chiefs Might Keep Bonuses

Face less pressure than execs of bailed-out banks

Stephen Hester and Philip Hampton both waived their bonuses after a very public political outcry against such rewards for bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland Group. However, it is unlikely that Robert Diamond and Stuart Gulliver, of Barclays and HSBC Holdings, respectively, will do likewise. Their banks, along with Standard Chartered, unlike RBS, did not receive public funds and so are under far less pressure to surrender the cash.

Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Diamond is, however, next in line for the hot seat because Barclays will report its 2011 results on Feb. 10, and decisions on executive compensation in March. While its profits are expected by analysts to be down 3% from the previous year, the bank is still expected to show a pretax gain of 5.87%.

The protests against bonuses and high compensation will exert far less pressure on banks that have not been bailed out by the government, and according to analysts and fund managers, institutional shareholders have different priorities than the public and the government.

Prime Minister David Cameron was quoted saying Monday that banks must demonstrate “proper regard” by reining in bonuses. “What needs to happen is a sense of restraint,” he said in Brussels Monday. “They need to do a better job of demonstrating how pay is related to performance. What I care about is the taxpayer going to get the money back.”

Oliver Roethig, regional secretary of UNI-Europa, a federation of European labor unions, including Britain’s Unite and Accord, was quoted saying, “It looks like Barclays is next on the list, but it’s the same for all the banks. The decision-making system to decide on bonuses is murky. We are all talking about market systems and if you look at how these bonuses have grown compared with everyone else’s this is a hint to market failure.”

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