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Banks 'should disclose number of workers earning 1m'

26 November 09 19:01 GMT

The UK's banks should be forced to publicly disclose the number of their employees who earn more than £1m a year, a report has concluded.

That is one of the main findings of the government-commissioned Walker Review into the corporate governance of banks.

Sir David Walker, who led the report, also said non-executive directors needed more power to monitor banks' risk taking and pay deals.

The government said it would now move to implement Sir David's proposals.

Specifically, it is to include his call for banks to have to disclose how many staff earn more than £1m in its Financial Services Bill which has just started going through Parliament.

Sir David told the BBC that the argument to name individuals who were earning that sum "were not supported by a shred of evidence", and that there were well over a thousand on that salary level in the City.

Earlier this year, City minister Lord Myners had suggested that banks should have to reveal the identities of their 20 best-paid staff outside the boardroom - where earnings are already fully disclosed.

'Anger and frustration'

Sir David also acknowledged that the fall-out from the banking crisis would be felt by the British people for many years to come.

"We're going to have to fund the problems generated by the banks not only this year but it's our children and grandchildren who are going to have to pay these costs so the basis for the anger and frustration is profound," he said.

The review recommends that FTSE 100-listed banks and the largest building societies should disclose in bands the number of "high end" employees, including executive board members.

The bands would show the number of people taking home £1m to £2.5m, £2.5m to £5m, and then in £5m bands thereafter.

Within each band, the main elements of salary, cash bonus, deferred shares, performance-related long-term awards and pension contribution should be disclosed, the report suggests.

The changes are expected to come into force from spring 2010 with the first yearly earnings disclosures not available until 2011.

Chancellor Alistair Darling said Sir David's proposals were "the blueprint for how banks must be run in the future".

'Tough questions'

Also in his report, Sir David said the boardroom needed to become "a more challenging environment than it has often been in the past".

"This requires non-executives [who are] able to devote sufficient time to the role in order to assess risk and ask tough questions about strategy."

David Cumming, head of UK equities at Standard Life Investments - which controls £150bn of investments - said he accepted the criticism that shareholders might not have exerted enough control in corporate governance.

"Most institutions didn't do enough to intervene, particularly in terms of the banks, but I think one of the assumptions here is that we're going to get it right as well," he said.

"Engagement is a good thing but we can't assume that it will solve everything."

'Falls short'

Commenting on the pay bands, Nick Ralph, partner at employment law firm, Archon Solicitors, believes that many of the bankers making day-to-day decisions will not be included in the disclosure.

"Earning a 'mere' £500,000 would not categorize you as 'high end'. It must be quite likely that people earning these 'lesser' sums could still be the people who design and implement risky transactions."

The union Unite thinks the review has not gone far enough.

"There is still a long way to go before we see the changes in culture and behaviour required in the boardroom of the banks. Simply tinkering on the edges of this industry is totally futile," said Rob MacGregor of Unite's national office.

The CBI director general Richard Lambert described the proposals as "sensible".

"In particular, we welcome the emphasis on ensuring balanced boards which are also equipped with the right skills, and on ensuring investors are active and engaged in scrutinising business strategy."

'Greater public disclosure'

The Walker Review was commissioned by the government in February following the crisis in the UK and global banking sector, much of which was blamed on excessive risk taking and bonus payments.

A number of his proposals on pay and how boards are run have already been included in FSA rules due to come into force in January that all major UK banks have signed up to.

In a number of areas Sir David's recommendations go further than the existing rules.

The FSA has previously said it would review its own remuneration code next year in order to take any developments into account.

This review, it now says, will also consider whether, and how, to implement Sir David's wider recommendations.

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