Barclays Needs to Detox

On Tuesday, I noted that Barclay’s top executives chose not to take bonuses for their work in 2009. While I remain skeptical about how this will play out in terms of total compensation received by these fellows, I am downright cynical about how this also-ran strategy of handing back bags of cash after being caught in the till, so to speak. Regardless of what these top executives ultimately do, the exercise is symptomatic of a bigger problem: Barclay’s is a compensation enabler. As one of the largest institutional investors in the world, Barclay’s has the responsibility for voting a vast array of proxies for companies they are invested in. What is troubling is that they seem as committed to allowing executives of companies held in their portfolios to e equally overpaid.

Are Barclays officials like alcoholics running a rehab center?

A study done in 2009 suggests this is the case. Titled, Compensation Accomplices: Mutual Funds and the Overpaid American CEO, the study chronicles a number of large mutual fund companies and how they voted their proxies on a set of key compensation proposals. Not surprisingly, many mutual funds tended to support management when it came to executive pay practices.

What I found interesting as I revisited this report was the list of the “Pay Enablers.” What was no surprise to me was that Barclay’s consistently held its place as one of the top 5 Pay Enablers in all categories of the study. They supported management proposals on executive pay  98% of the time. Conversely, they opposed shareholder proposals seeking to rein in executive pay 90% of the time.

This of course, is done in the “best interests of Barclays’ mutual fund investors. Sort of a “just have another drink tonight and we’ll talk about your problem tomorrow” solution to a problem that can’t be ignored.

About John Richardson

John Richardson is the CEO of JMR Portfolio Intelligence, a Washington DC based human rights consultancy.
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