Tuesday 9 June 2009

What is the Peston agenda?

I note today that one of the UK's top business bloggers, Robert Peston, is again following a track on Executive Pay. This time about a retiring Shell executive.

Robert has posted a few times on this topic recently. Perhaps he sees the MP's expenses story and thinks there is a read across to a juicy business topic?

To me, Fat Cat Salary stories are a nothing, the money generally spent on Executive pay is a nothing in large companies compared to the price of decisions and investments the guys/gals make; If they do a bad job they get fired too. Shareholders can hold them to account if they can be bothered. Major corporates are not run like the BBC after all!

I do though wonder if Mr Peston has another agenda, is it possible this is a mild broadside about one's own pay negotiation? Are there not some rather fat cats within the BBC with whom one would like to be remunerated at a similar level, like Wossy for example?

We shall see in due course, will he stay or will he go?


Anonymous said...

Creative theory! Absolutely silly, but creative.

CityUnslicker said...

the ego has landed?

Anonymous said...

not a chance, he googles himself much earler than 10:49.

roym said...

if that automaton reading out loud on bbc news 24 get 90K then peston must be well into 6 figures! plus various book deals etc. how much more does he want?

CityUnslicker said...

Nothing wrong with the lure of filhty lucre Roym!

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Where can I get this filty lucre? Can it be laundered so that it is nice and fresh smelling, with perhaps a hint of Aloe Vera?

Bill Quango MP said...

The BBC must live in fear of their pay details coming out.
I don't really care what Ross earns. He is like any star footballer. He earns what he earns, which is a bit more than the market can bear. Sometimes a signing is worth it, sometimes not.

What is causing a fair amount of concern, as roym points out, is that there may be a considerably larger than average pool of Synergy partnership directors, media facing diverse communication spectrum co-ordination administrators and affirmative action socio-focus group leaders on whopping £125K + salaries, contributing little, if anything, at all.
I can feel a Panorama special coming on...{or maybe not.}
Or maybe a sitcom?
Some sort of mix of the Office, the new series of Reggie Perrin and Clerical Administrators send out the funniest things.

Roy Davis said...

Peston bangs on constantly along similar themes in his book from a couple of years ago "Who runs Britain".

Unfortunately he's a puppet of the current Administration (as are most of the BBC). He lost respect from me when he began blogging about the Oleg Deripaska/George Osborne "scandal" last year - http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/robertpeston/2008/10/rothschild_v_osborne.html
Not quite sure why he didn't leave this one for Nick Robinson

Roy Davis said...

Opps, b*lls-up the link above

Trimalchio said...

Er, not quite.

MP's expenses are a very small proportion of public finances, much smaller than the pay of CEOs as a propotion of company profits.

Sometimes they do get kicked out but usually only for cocking up splendidly. Underperformance is richly rewarded. It's precisely the unaccountability of management to shareholders that is the issue here. Legal and General have stated that they repeatedly asked for the resignations of Tom McKillop and Fred Goodwin before RBS went to the wall.

This is just as much a tax as anything imposed by the state and just as much a dead weight on productivity. I think that's Pesto's point.

Not, by the way, that I hold any candle for BBC pay. There was something unsettling about listening to journalists savaging MPs paid much less than themselves last month. Panorama obviously felt they had to come (a little bit) clean on this - their reporter a couple of weeks ago described MPs' pay as "less than a Panorama reporter". This was someone I had never heard of; I'm sure she does a perfectly good job, it's just that I don't know what it is and I'm paying for it.

The problem here seems to me to be identical - overlapping, privileged cliques in politics, business and the media who seem to feel entitled to fat salaries without any need to justify them through performance.

CityUnslicker said...

Trimalchi- I respectfully diagree. RBS apart where there was clear boardroom issues, 99% private companies do not need taxpayer help. If you as a shareholder don't like the remuneration policies, then don't own the shares. Even then, the blame lies with the FSA in allowing RBS to do the deal with ABN Amro.

MP's expenses are different, all MP's have been found to be personally corrupt whilst at the same time promoting themselves as moral guardians. Very few CEo's do this, they want to get rich and make it happen.

The two are not comparable. BBC expenses, as public sector spend, are more like MP's than a private company.

Trimalchio said...


Again with the greatest respect, I still differ from you. I acknowledge that there is a moral difference in hypocrisy between MPs and business leaders but it's not really at the heart of my argument.

You say that business leaders get kicked out of their jobs for failure and that's certainly sometimes true but I would argue that the career of an MP - and certainy a minister - is even less secure. I don't think that this actually motivates either group well either. If it did, a democratic system would automatically produce good government. In reality, there is ample scope for ministers to conceal the reality of their performance and they typically come a cropper when the charade cannot be sustained. In my experience, business is not that dissimilar.

There is a key difference of course, that in a well-functioning market system, a Darwinian force applies and poorly-managed companies will simply go to the wall, leaving their better-managed competitors behind. The extent to which this happens in reality for very large companies is moot, though it's certainly the fate of small businesses.

The core of my argument, though, is that shareholders, which are largely pension funds, are hamstrung in their exercise of power. They precisely cannot do what you suggest and sell their shares. If L&G had sold its holding in RBS... well, you know the consequences. It is what should happen in theory and it might well have done 100 years ago when capital was largely held by private individuals. As I am sure you are well aware, this is impossible in the present day because of the way in which funds are managed. My contention here, which I don't think you will agree with at all, is that the market is not a self-correcting system that tends to equilibrium but, like many other complex systems can become trapped in an unproductive loop.

Alongside this, I am suggesting that the political, business and media worlds are interconnected and support each other. Government, far from being a brake (for goood or ill) on the behaviour of banks (in particular) collaborated to produce the chaos of last year. The FSA failed to block the ABN Amro bid (or whatever Gordon called it) precisely because they were restrained from intervention by the Treasury. By the way, this is in contrast to their very interventionist behaviour in other, less privileged, sectors of the financial services industry. A quick glance across the pond serves to show that this kind of cosiness is still very much the norm in the USA. I don't call this a free market.

Finally, I was a bit surprised that you seem to blame the FSA rather than RBS over the ABN Amro fiasco. Yes, the FSA failed as a regulator but is it really for the regulator to be accountable for every decision management makes? Would they have been lauded if they had stopped the deal? Surely, the primary fault lies with RBS's management and Board. Blaming the FSA holds the state accountable for management of banks.

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