BOSSES at Royal Bank of Scotland have insisted they are “good value” despite shareholder protests over a £800 million bonus pot for top staff.
Around 200 investors demonstrated outside the RBS annual general meeting in the Capital yesterday to voice their anger about the bonus culture while inside chairman Sir Phillip Hampton warned that shareholders may never recoup their loses.
Waving placards as bank chiefs entered the meeting, one investor asked: “Why are we talking about giving bonuses to the directors when they are already being paid a good wage for doing their job?
“When the company is back sound without any problems, then they can get a bonus.”
Then pointing at chief executive Stephen Hester, the shareholder added: “I could do the job he’s doing for much less of a price.”
RBS chairman Sir Phillip Hampton replied: “I have some sympathy with your concerns about the bonus culture.
“I accept that some people in some organisations have been significantly overpaid, particularly in the financial sector. But I wouldn’t say that for RBS.
“This is one of the toughest business challenges in the world. I think we are getting good value out of this team for the challenges they are responding to.”
The RBS chairman waived his £1.4 million bonus in February and chief executive Stephen Hester – who earns £1.2m – also turned down his £963,000 bonus a few days later.
But other top staff shared a bonus pot of nearly £800m.
RBS shares hit a high of about £6 in early 2007, the year before its government baillout. Yesterday they fell about 4 per cent to just under 20p.
Inside the AGM, Sir Phillip Hampton issued stark warning to shareholders.
“I don’t think shareholders’ wealth is likely to be restored any time in my lifetime or some lifetimes beyond,” he said.
Dave Moxham, spokesman for the Robin Hood Tax campaign, said: “It’s nothing short of a scandal that RBS handed out £800m in bonuses at a time when the rest of us are paying the price of the economic crisis.
“A tiny tax on financial transactions would raise billions to help protect services and poor people at home and abroad.”
Scottish Labour’s Treasury spokeswoman, Cathy Jamieson, backed the move.
She said: “We need a global agreement on a financial transaction tax that would allow us to claw back more money from the banks but so far the UK Government has failed to show any leadership on this issue.”