February promises to be an uncomfortable month both for David Cameron and bankers at Royal Bank of Scotland. This year’s bonus season comes as the state-controlled bank is due to pay more than £500m in fines to US and UK regulators for rigging Libor. So it is encouraging that both the government and RBS are taking steps not only to claw back past payouts from those touched by the scandal, but to shrink the bonus pool itself.
Last year the government failed to recognise the extent of public resentment that still simmered over banking pay. Though it had signed off on a bonus of almost £1m to Stephen Hester, the chief executive brought in after the state’s £45bn rescue, it subsequently pressed him to surrender the payout in the face of political controversy. This time Mr Cameron and George Osborne, his chancellor, should ensure that any bonuses the bank pays are transparent, reasonable and justified. And then they should have the courage to defend these payouts to the public.
去年，英国政府没有认识到民众对银行业薪酬的愤懑程度，并且这种不满情绪当时仍在发酵。在英国政府对RBS实施450亿英镑的救助之后，斯蒂芬•赫斯特(Stephen Hester)就任RBS首席执行官。尽管政府去年批准了发给他的近100万英镑奖金，但随后政府面对政治争议，向赫斯特施压，要求他放弃这笔奖金。这一次，卡梅伦及其财政大臣乔治•奥斯本(George Osborne)应该保证，RBS支付的任何奖金都是透明、合理而且公平的。只有这样，他们才能有勇气在公众面前为这些奖金辩护。
The hard truth is that as long as RBS has an investment banking arm it will have to pay bonuses to attract and retain competent staff. RBS is not big enough, and certainly not yet successful enough, to change such industry practice on its own.
Mr Osborne has suggested that RBS should return to its high street roots, while also focusing on its role as banker to small business. But the government had also accepted that during the turnround phase it was necessary to retain some investment banking activity. Since the state stepped in, this has generated more than £11bn profit and offset the losses inflicted by toxic assets. This year RBS may even break even. This is good news for the UK taxpayer. So it would be illogical to demand that the investment banking arm deliver value that might help the government eventually to sell its stake, but deprive it of the ability either to keep or to attract the best people to carry out that job. This message should be reinforced by the fact that RBS is now one of the least generous in the industry when it comes to bonuses.