Business

Barclays: Executives enriched, shareholders impoverished

BBC business editor Robert Peston on Barclays

Barclays remuneration report discloses that £100 invested in Barclays on 31 December 2005 would have been worth £53 - including dividends received - at the end of 2010, which most would describe as a hopeless performance.

And, lest you labour under the illusion that this was just what happened to the stock market in general, think again: the same £100 invested in all FTSE100 companies (a tiny bit of each company) would have increased in value to £126 over the same time period.

Or to tell you what you already know, returns on almost all our banks - including Barclays - have been lamentable.

So how is it that the chaps at the top of Barclays, and those immediately below them, earn such astonishing sums of money (see my earlier post for the details)?

Can Bob Diamond be worth the £9m he received in pay and bonuses and the £15.2m in shares he also received from earlier incentive schemes that have just matured (or vested, to use the jargon)?

Barclays would say Mr Diamond is simply being paid what's required to retain the services of an acknowledged star of his industry.

But if that's the market rate, isn't there something wrong with a market which also awarded £14.3m and £14m to a couple of executives below board level (and who knows what magnificent sums to traders without executive responsibility, whose pay isn't disclosed?)?

Or to put it another way, how can executives be worth quite so much when the owners of the business, the shareholders, have lost so much money?

Here is another way of looking at the extent to which the owners have been punished: in 2007 Barclays' investors received dividends of 24p per share; in 2010, dividends were 5.5%.

If a 77% cut in the dividend isn't redolent of management failure, what is - and why haven't the owners instructed Barclays and the other banks to allocate less wonga for top executives and more for shareholders?

Ministers would argue that the disparate fortunes of executives and owners stems from the ignorance of the owners about what has really been going on. So the Treasury told me it deserved credit for forcing Barclays and the other banks to disclose for the very first time the remuneration of the top five executives below board level (which was a stipulation of the Project Merlin agreement with the big banks on business lending and pay).

So now that shareholders know that the top five below board level earn £14.3m, £14m, £9m, £6.5m and £5.2m - or £49m in total - will they think that's miles too much, just about right or too little?

Will they bother to probe behind the headline figures to take a view about whether they are really paying these executives for performance?

Is there any chance that when it comes to bankers' pay, there will start to be some kind of proper alignment between the rewards to senior employees and the fundamental performance of the business - or will top bankers' pay continue to look as crazy to most people as the pay of Premier League footballers?

You can keep up with the latest from business editor Robert Peston by visiting his blog on the BBC News website.

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