The scandal of the bank bonuses saga rattles on, as George Monbiot shows (Comment, 25 January). Although the Royal Bank of Scotland is 84% and Lloyds Banking Group is 41% owned by the taxpayer, Stephen Hester, CEO of one, and Eric Daniels, outgoing CEO of the other, are in line for massive bonuses, as are other senior executives. It is now some two years since the Brown administration set up UK Financial Investments Ltd to manage the taxpayer’s stakes in the partly nationalised banks, with a remit to adopt “a robust approach”, as an “active and engaged shareholder”, in agreeing pay structures and levels “which are fair and appropriate”. And it is nine months since the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition agreement spoke of “robust action to tackle unacceptable bonuses”. Yet, as Monbiot illustrates, the government has been back-pedalling on introducing tougher European rules on bonuses and senior bank executives continue to cream off moneys which the banks have accumulated simply because of the largesse of the taxpayer.
As the government, through its holding of the taxpayer’s collective shares, has, despite its rhetoric, failed to take action to curb the bonus culture, has the time not come for individual shareholder activism again? Four years ago, with your paper’s help, I summoned up sufficient Tesco shareholders to move a resolution at its 2007 AGM mandating the company to pay its outsourced textile workers in the developing world a living wage. It created history; 20% of Tesco’s shareholders either voted for the resolution or abstained. Are there not angry shareholders in our banks keen to emulate my action and shame the government?
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