Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Shareholders' Fury over Bank Bonuses; Barclays Faces Rebellion at Meeting

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Shareholders' Fury over Bank Bonuses; Barclays Faces Rebellion at Meeting

Article excerpt

Byline: Jamie Grierson

BARCLAYS was stung by shareholders after nearly a third of their votes failed to back the bank's bumper pay awards. Following a heated annual meeting yesterday, Barclays revealed that 32% of investors voted against or withheld votes for the bank's pay report, while 24% failed to back remuneration committee chairman Alison Carnwath.

Chief executive Bob Diamond sparked anger among shareholders when it emerged he would receive pounds 17.7m in salary, bonus, benefits and vested long-term share awards last year, despite admitting his bank's performance was "unacceptable" in 2011.

The protest vote is a sizeable one in terms of recent corporate history and will send a powerful message to the bank's board.

The blow comes at a time when the Government is consulting on plans to return power to shareholders, which would include introducing a binding vote on executive salaries.

Business Secretary Vince Cable welcomed signs of what he said was shareholders "doing what they are supposed to do, which is holding executives to account".

Mr Cable is reportedly still considering a proposal to require the backing of 75% of shareholder votes on company resolutions, such as pay deals.

The Barclays vote came despite an apology from chairman Marcus Agius, whose admission that the bank failed to engage with shareholders was met with heckling, shouting and heated questions over the bank's pay culture.

Mr Agius defended the bank's position, saying the brutal reality" was that paying "zero bonus" was not an option.

Responding to a shareholder question about why Mr Diamond merited any bonus at all, Mr Agius said: "We operate in an international competitive industry. We have to fight for our business every day. It's not an option to pay zero bonus. We would be so far out of line with our competitors that the commercial consequences would be dire. …

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