Thursday, 26 November 2009

What do bankers really earn? I mean, really?

The British government is planning to ‘force’ banks to publish the number of their staff who earn more than a million pounds a year.

The quotation marks around ‘force’ are there because I suspect that they’ll be falling over themselves to publish the figures. Each bank will want to show that it has more high-salary executives than the others. The one with 150 £1,000,000 plus men (because you can be sure that virtually all of them will be men) will want to hand out increases to get closer to the competitor with 250.

But the real issue isn’t with the act of publication but with the value to be published. The number of executives earning over a million is easy to work out – it’s zero. The number they’ll be publishing will be the number being paid over a million.

This slack use of the word ‘earn’ is one of the great instances of loose speech in English these days. You earn what you deserve. Given the financial state of the world today, and the role that bankers played in getting us into it, I can’t imagine a single one of them is worth a million a year.

But as we’ll soon find out, that doesn’t stop them pocketing the loot.


Victor Chisholm said...

In Canada, after certain jurisdictions legislated salary disclosure for certain high-paid individuals---I think it was CEOs of corporations in Ontario, though perhaps it was public sector executives?---in the interest of transparency, the effect was to drive said salaries and compensation packages HIGHER as they started to compete with each other. That was a perverse outcome when the intent was to address public moral outrage with their overpayment and hopefully limit their growth.

David Beeson said...

Nice illustration. It reminds me of an example of the reverse in Britain: the 'ASBO', anti-social behaviour order, which in certain circles of young men or boys has become a badge of honour - rather encouraging bad behaviour than deterring it.