Revealed: Thousands of Britain’s top bankers become Euro millionaires while workers pay clipped to 1 per cent

HSBC pic credit BBC

HSBC. Five senior executives due to share £33.4m Pic credit: BBC

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

The day  after the general election the House of Commons library released a flood of papers which had been held up because of  purdah rules until after the result was known.

One of the most revealing papers was one on Banking Executives’ Renumeration in the UK. It drew on two sources – Britain’s submission  ( required by EU rules ) to the European Banking Authority and British sources such as company reports and details from the banks themselves about long term incentives for senior executives.

The facts revealed in the annexes to this report confirm what a lot of people have suspected but have not always been able to prove. There is-a widening gulf between the top and the bottom that has been going on during the fiercest period of austerity which has seen real wages for million falling. If John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, and Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, had access to this information during the election it could have been dynamite.

Two facts are extraordinary. This boom in higher executive pay came under the coalition between 2012 and 2015 when David Cameron and George Osborne were actively pursing wage freezes and minimal wage rises in the public sector.

Second it is the scale of it – it is not a handful of  new bankers becoming Euro millionaires, it is thousands of them.

And for the very, very top executives at five of our biggest retail banks it is untold riches if they meet performance targets.

The wider picture only came out because of a  European Commission directive to collect figures from all 28 EU members on how many bankers are earning over 1 million euro (£884,300 at current rates) a year. At the time the Euro would have been worth less – but even so it is a large sum.

Britain will no longer have to supply this when we leave the EU.

The figures show startling increases in senior staff employed by the banking industry falling into this bracket between 2012 and 2015 across nearly all sectors. Altogether the number of higher earners has risen nearly 300 per cent over this period, from 1272 to 3551.

Among the bigger rises are those in investment banking where the numbers earning this figure and more has risen from 947 to 2146. In asset management the numbers rose from 94 to 415 while those in high street banks rose from 52 to 105.

The average salary among the 2146 top earners in investment banking was 2,021,000 euro or over £1.78 million a year. Among the 415 people in asset management it was even higher at 2,201,000 euro or £1.946 million a year. In retail banking the 105 people averaged a little less at 1,789.000 euro or £1.582 million each a year.

Equally damning is a survey taken from five banks in Britain – HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds, Santander and the state owned RBS.

It looked at the money the five to eight top executives could make. At Lloyds 8 people share £24.9 a million a year between them. The figure for Barclays was £27.1m and at HSBC the top five people shared a whopping £33.4m.

Figures for the state owned RBS are lower at £11.35m while at Santander it was £10.6m.

As already known the chairmen and chief executives also get good pay packets worth millions.

What this says is that the coalition of David Cameron and Nick Clegg were happy to preside over this boom and impose severe austerity, and job cuts to pay for the mess the very same bankers created  by triggering the  crash in 2008.

As the song goes : “It’s the poor what gets the blame, It’s the rich what gets the pleasure, Isn’t it a blooming shame? ”

For not much longer I suspect given the current climate.

I have written about this in Tribune magazine. The House of Commons library report is  here for those who wish to read it

 

 

 

 

Revealed: The Treasury mandarin who said losing £1bn for the taxpayer was value for money

john kingman, second Permanent secretary at The Treasury Pic Credit: worldellows.yale.edu

john kingman, second Permanent secretary at The Treasury Pic Credit: worldellows.yale.edu

CROSS POSTED FROM  BYLINE.COM WHERE SOME OF MY WHITEHALL AND WESTMINSTER SCOOPS WILL NOW APPEAR FIRST AS PART OF A NEW CROWDFUNDING DEAL TO WIDEN THE SCOPE OF THIS BLOG

There has been enormous outrage about the £1bn loss to the taxpayer caused by the sale of the first tranche of Royal Bank of Scotland shares. An article in The Guardian on August 4 reported not only expected criticism from Labour but concern from a banking analyst that the share price of RBS was too low to justify the sale.

What was only briefly mentioned was that the second most powerful mandarin in the Treasury had also given the go ahead. You might expect him to bow and scrape to the Chancellor but actually he has more powers than you might think and he needn’t have followed his instructions.

If an accounting officer believes that a government minister is about to make a decision that will lead to a big loss to the taxpayer he can refuse to approve the action.

These actions are not taken lightly – one of the most recent examples being the refusal by Richard Heaton (soon to become Permanent Secretary at MoJ) who requested one, on value for money grounds, on 26 June over extra funding for the Kids company charity. He was overruled by ministers who have now seen to have made a big mistake as recent coverage reveals.

John Kingman could have done the same thing. He would face being overruled by George Osborne but it would have caused a furore and triggered an eventual Whitehall investigation.

John Kingman Letter Instead as this letter above shows he has positively embraced the sale.

“ I am satisfied that a sale at this time would offer good value for money for the taxpayer and meets all other requirements in accordance with the principles of Managing Public Money,” he wrote to George Osborne.

Really?  Now John Kingman is one of the cleverest mandarins in Whitehall. He hates holidays, lives in Leicester Square and one former colleague describes him in these words: “His arrogance is only marginally ahead of his considerable intelligence, whereas with most ambitious men of his ilk the gap is rather larger.” A profile in 2009 by political editor George Parker in the Financial Times says it all.

He writes “If he can achieve the goal of unwinding the taxpayer’s stake ( in RBS) at a profit, his route to the top of the civil service is clear, even if some question whether he has the patience to manage such a huge, traditional organisation. “

Well at the moment he hasn’t – he has acquiesced in a £1 billion tax loss. And I am not the only one who has noticed this.

The National Audit Office, Parliament’s financial watchdog, which reports on state asset sales, confirmed to me “We are watching the situation”.

They will have to make a report on this. This will lead him to have to appear before the House of Commons public accounts committee to justify why he approved what was done.

No doubt the government would like Parliament to take its time – perhaps not report until the entire sale is over – but that won’t be until 2020.

I say the huge loss to the taxpayer should not go unchallenged for years. Bring it on now!

Anti Austerity: Time for the Job Creators Allowance

Muhammad_Yunus_-_World_Economic_Forum_Annual_Meeting_2012 (1)This month a radical thinker passed through Westminster and presented an idea that politicians tackling Britain’s economic crisis should sit up and take notice.

Nobel Peace prizewinner Muhammad Yunus was addressing a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference on growth and development en route from Bangla Desh to Mexico City. The conference attracted people from as far apart as Somalia and Paraguay and Haiti and Timor-Leste.

Yunus is the man who created an anti-bank bank called the Grameen Bank in Bangla Desh which broke every rule of traditional banking. As he put it : ” I went and talked to the banks and did precisely the opposite of everything they told me.”

His bank was only interested in lending money to the poorest in Bangla Desh – those with nothing so they could start tiny micro businesses. His ideas have now been taken up in developed economies notable the United States in New York and elsewhere.

He has been criticised however by people who say it  is still exploitative and has not worked, The idea has been hijacked by others as this review suggests.

But his bank is extraordinary. he employs no lawyers, has no detailed contracts, and lends to people with no collatoral and yet 99 per cent of the small loans are repaid. Bad news for Price Waterhouse and City lawyers as well as banks.

I was particularly struck by one phrase he tells the unemployed in Bangla Desh to say. ” I am not a job seeker. I am a job creator. I want to start at the top not be exploited at the bottom.”

Now it occurs to me that this might have a lot of resonance to Britain post the crash. Capitalism and bankers are brilliant at helping the haves have even more so they can exploit the have-nots, What about turning the idea on its head and help the have-nots for once.

Britain is rapidly becoming a more unequal society in wealth and jobs. Constituencies near to me like Hemel Hempstead face a job feast this Christmas with Amazon and Royal Mail competing against each other to fill vacancies. Constituencies like Birmingham, Ladywood and Foyle in Northern Ireland face a job famine  with over 11 per cent still out of work.

It also strikes me that among the wasted talent on the dole they must be people capable of learning skills, particularly in the  child or personal caring professions, but can’t get going because they haven’t basic qualifications or access to a few hundred readies to get started. This is why Jobcentre plus in pushing them into low paid work, zero hour contracts, to become the new exploited of companies funded by wealthy private equity groups.

Now if a politician decided that instead he was going to find a way to connect with the dispossessed by setting up a bank only interested in funding them to create their own job – this might have more resonance in the real world than in the current Metropolitan elite.

Traditionally this idea sits with Labour – the party created by trade unions, that believes in social credit organisations rather than Wonga and backs the ideals of the Co-operative movement. But it could equally apply to the Greens and some strands in other parties

What better way to reconnect to the working class than allow him and her to get cash to buy equipment so they can earn some money, even get  a second-hand white van. A veritable Job Creator Allowance.

What about the money for this?  Why not use the huge fines on corrupt banks to kick start the scheme rather than as sticking plaster for the NHS (Labour) or tax cuts (Tory)? What is a more delicious idea than taking money from bloated, arrogant money manipulators and giving it to the very people they wouldn’t give house room?

How would it work? I don’t know but I now know a man who does. He is called Muhammed Yunus. Someone should call him up and put the idea in their party manifesto. He did speak after all in the Attlee Room,  named after one of Britain’s greatest reforming Prime Ministers.

Exclusive: The shy mandarin who gave back half his redundo to the Treasury

This is an unusual story for our time. Just when the snatch it all culture from money grabbing bonus seeking bankers and utility bosses, and golden goodbyes for multi billionaires dominate the media, someone has a conscience.

In July 2012 Mick Laverty was made compulsorily redundant when the government axed West Midlands Advantage as part of the government’s closure of  all  the regional development agencies. This little bureaucracy bashing exercise  supervised by Vince Cable, the business secretary, has led to an amazing £60m in payouts to the 2300 staff. According to a report from IPPR North (http://www.ippr.org/images/media/files/publication/2013/03/UKfirst-northern-FDI_Mar2013_10500.pdf ) it has contributed to Britain’s downturn outside the bloated London and the South East with inward investment dropping drastically,particularly in the North and Midlands.

Mick Laverty: the shy mandarin who gave back half his redundo; Pic reproduced with permission Student Loans Company

Mick Laverty: the shy mandarin who gave back half his redundo; Pic reproduced with permission Student Loans Company

Among the super size redundo package was an award of £14o,772 to Mick Laverty – and the last accounts of the agency record he got some £351,000 (including the redundo) in the last 15 months in the job.

At the time the Department of Business Innovation and Science said none of these highly paid mandarins were going to get any new jobs in Whitehall.

And yet just six months later he was appointed as the new chief executive of the Students Loans Company to replace Ed Lester – a name familiar to this website after his amazing deal where he avoided paying tax or national insurance at source led to a huge crackdown across Whitehall when Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, discovered 2500 civil servants were doing the same thing.

And guess who approved his appointment none other than the Department for Business. Furthermore as is reported in Exaro News, his salary is £160,000 a year plus up to £25,000 in bonuses, some £45,000 more than his predecessor. See http://www.exaronews.com/articles/4902/ed-lester-to-depart-from-student-loans-company-this-month

But there is a rather nice silver lining – at least for the taxpayer. To his credit Mick Laverty decided to return £82,117  redundo to the Treasury entirely as a voluntary gesture since he is entitled to the money under the Civil Service Compensation Scheme. I tried to talk to him about it but he seems very publicity shy and wouldn’t comment. People around him say he believes it was the right thing to do as he was only six months without a job.

If only some of our other big fat cats in Whitehall,local government  and the banks thought the same Britain might be a fairer place. But sadly the National audit Office tell me that is very rare in Whitehall, they didn’t know of another instance.

Revealed: The Old Etonian Baronet who snapped up London’s fire engines for £2

Sir Aubrey Brocklebank- a hooray henry owning all London’s fire engines for £2? Pic courtesy Daily Telegraph

This is Sir Aubrey Thomas Brocklebank,  6th Baronet Brocklebank, of Greenlands and Irton Hall, Cumberland.

He is now the proud owner – not just of a  battered 2cv  racing car as pictured  here – but of the entire fleet of fire engines owned by the London fire brigade. When you next have a fire in Greater London this is the man who will responsible that the crew arrive in a properly maintained and equipped fire engine.

In the mad world of  privatisation  Sir Aubrey was able to snap the fleet and  get his hands on an income stream worth nearly £200m over the next ten years – for JUST £2.

You the  council taxpayers will be paying this man £1.5m a month to look after London’s fleet. He got this  at a knock down price because  the Greater London Authority foolishly under Ken Livingstone and even more foolishly under Boris Johnson and former London fire chairman, Brian Coleman, sold off  London’s fire engines and a 20 year lease on its own maintenance headquarters in Ruislip to a private firm.

The firm was sold on to AssetCo ( which I have written about extensively) whose  own chief executive, John Shannon, had to be dismissed, when he left it teetering on bankruptcy. The actual engines are at present owned by bankers, Lloyds TSB, one of the chief creditors of AssetCo London which had over £30m in debts and haven’t a penny to  replace the ailing fleet of engines from 2014. This has been admitted by Sue Budden, director of finance,of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, . She told councillors at a meeting last week: “When they look ahead and look at the big vehicle replacement that is due to start in 2014, I think they can see they are not set up to cover that.” The full story by me is on the Exaro  news website at http://www.exaronews.com.

Step in Sir Aubrey who bought ailing  AssetCo for  £2 – without the fire authority or its staff- even knowing until the deal was signed. Such is the new world of privatised services – elected people aren’t even important enough  to know who owns them.

Now Sir Aubrey appears to be the scion of a very famous and powerful shipping family who owned two stately homes. One, Nunsmere Hall in Cheshire was built for his namesake, the third baronet, who went on to join the board of Cunard, and drew up plans for the original Queen Mary in the 1920s. The family have a steam locomotive on the narrow gauge Ravenglass and Eskdale railway named after them and in 1927 there was a swish saloon known as the Brocklebank.

The present Sir Aubrey  even graces the picture collection held by the National Portrait Gallery – with portraits of him and his first wife, Dr  Anna-Marie Dunnet, purchased by the gallery in 2004. He was also like the all the family, educated at Eton but too old at 60, to be a contemporary of London mayor Boris Johnson.

But a closer investigation reveals that  Sir Aubrey is not all he seems. Gone it appears are the two stately homes – both are now hotels. And Sir Aubrey  now remarried  with wife, Lady Hazel, is actually on the electoral register at a£162,500  three bedroomed semi in Stanwick, Wellingborough in Northants – in the constituency of Tory Mp, Peter Bone.

He doesn’t even own his house outright – he has a mortgage with the very democratic Nationwide building society.

It is at this address in July  that he set up a small private company A & AB Investments Ltd, which paid the princely sum of £2 for London’s fire engines. It is this company that is now the ultimate owner of London’s fire services. He has since set up another company Premier Fireserve, based at  the leased maintenance plant owned by the fire brigade.

Nor does he have any of the illustrious careers of his ancestors. Instead he is non executive chair of a series of venture capitalist funds, under the name Puma – who simply offer very good tax avoidance schemes – by investing in anything from hotels, property, antiquarian books – and then liquidating their investments after five years to secure maximum tax relief and returns for their investors. Hardly reassuring for such a permanent feature as providing a fire service which cannot be traded for tax  avoidance.

His only other passion is racing 2cv cars – with a  team known as Twin Snails. Indeed the elderly boy racer competed at Snetterton in Norfolk over the August bank holiday weekend in the British championships. His team have had mixed fortunes -doing better at Snetterton but coming a cropper at Brands Hatch -see http://www.flickr.com/photos/maisiehexagon/492921242/

Now you may think I am making  all this up. I tried to contact Sir Aubrey five times  to find out his side of the story. But he is shy and reclusive when it comes to the press – and he never returned my calls. I wonder why as I never bite.

But I think any reasonable person would think he is not the  first person you would want to run a public service and he hardly even has a particularly good business record. It is time he is held to account and I have great hopes that  Ex MP Andrew Dismore, the Labour assembly member for Camden and Barnet, will pursue him on our behalf by every means possible to find out the truth behind this, on the surface, very dodgy development.

Going Downhill fast: The Liberal Democrats bankrolled by RBS

Nick Clegg-party in dire straits and bankrolled by the Royal Bank of Scotland

In the week when student protest over tuition fees reaches a climax, public support and money for the Liberal Democrats is collapsing all the time. And it is now even more in hock to one of the banks that provoked the financial crisis in the first place

In article in the Tribune  this week http://bit.ly/eC4Xb5 I point out that the party has had a bad time in recent local council  by-elections  getting as few as 10, 45 and 98 votes in some cases. It is also in an appalling financial  situation getting less money in the last quarter than UKIP and  relying on a big donation from the taxpayer via the Electoral Commission  to keep afloat. Only after the 2005 election were the figures worse. 

 A closer look at the party loan book reveals a delicious further irony – the party is actually being bank rolled on a £1m indefinite loan from the discredited Royal Bank of Scotland – the bank of Fred ” the Shred” Goodwin- which itself is being bailed out by the taxpayer and subject to a still secret report from the Financial Services Authority.

 Given Vincent Cable’s high-profile attacks on the banks for the poor lending, the business secretary is much more cautious in lending his party money than RBS. He gave a £10,000 interest free loan to the party on April 13 but demanded his money back, insisting it was repaid on May 25. He was one of only two donors post the election who wanted their money back pronto, the other more understandably being Susan Kramer, defeated by Zac Goldsmith in Richmond.

As for local elections performance the best guide is on this website http://bit.ly/fWKVmT . Although it shows a small overall gain of four for the Liberal Democrats, this can be accounted for entirely by their performance on general election day,May 6, where they made a few gains. Since then, apart from taking one seat from the Tories and a couple from Independents in Cornwall, they have slumped.

And all of this is before the cuts and tax rises have to bite and student fees go through the roof.

No wonder Vince Cable wanted his money back. He’ll need it for his retirement.

Europe’s poverty aid programme for bankers and tax havens

Not quite the aid bankers have in mind. Picture courtesy The Guardian

When you think of aid to the starving poor in Africa, you think of Oxfam or Christian Aid. You don’t think of wealthy bankers, private equity companies or tax havens.

 Yet a report out  examining in detail the aid programme given by the European Investment Bank on behalf of the European Union reveals more and more aid cash is being given to African banks, private equity companies and passed through tax havens.

 The report from a group of non governmental organisations Counter Balance reveals that much of the €1.01 billion given  to relieve poverty is now going to projects that are run by banks and private equity companies. And worse than that commercial confidentiality by both the banks and the EIB  is preventing the public and the taxpayer knowing whether it has gone to good use.

The EIB argues that all is well as the banks know better than them what to do with the money and their own audit checks, often farmed out to local firms in these countries, prove it is value for money.

But the report reveals that all is not as well as they claim. In one case in Gabon the EIB had a lucky escape when they were about to give money ton the Banque Gabonaise de Devloppment only to discover that there was alleged corruption at the bank involving the siphoning of funds by the cronies of the now dead president, Christian Bongo. They pulled out just in time.

 In Nigeria, they also offered a €50 million credit line to the Intercontinental Bank of Nigeria at a  time when its managing director was being investigated for alleged fraud by Nigeria’s equivalent of the Serious Fraud Office. The bank had to bailed out last year by Nigeria’s state bank. Luckily for the EIB none of the money had been drawn down.

The report also highlights a lot of money going to Mauritius – where many private equity companies are based, but not much of the cash is being spent there, most of it is spent in the rest of Africa.

 The fear must be – in the wake of the Irish bank crisis and the collapse of Lehman Brothers which started the global crash – that the EIB could be next on the list. What could look on the surface as a sound investment might turn out to be little better than some of those subprime investments given a AAA rating.

 The problem is that all the EIB loans are triple AAA rated because they are in Europe. If anything goes wrong, it could be another matter. Don’t say you have not been warned, but this report, even though it is quite dense and detailed, is a must read. It is rather like a canary warning of danger in the mines.

You can get the report at Counter Balance. The direct link to download it is http://bit.ly/f6zalC.

 I have also written an article in The Guardian. The direct link is bit.ly/fdkO5K.