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Barclays investors seek meeting on board split

Category : Business

Shareholders want to see senior independent director following reports Alison Carnwath did not initially support Diamond bonus

Barclays shareholders are considering demanding a meeting with Sir Michael Rake, the senior independent director on the board, amid mounting concern about tension within the bank’s boardroom.

Following reports that Alison Carnwath, the Barclays director who heads the remuneration committee, had not initially supported the payment of a £2.7m bonus to the chief executive, Bob Diamond, shareholders are understood to want to hear from the senior independent director rather than the bank’s chairman, Marcus Agius.

Carnwath, a serial non-executive director who also chairs Land Securities, faced a protest vote of 20% at the Barclays annual meeting. More than 30% of investors failed to back the bank’s pay policies after Diamond was awarded the controversial bonus and the bank paid £5.7m of his taxes. Diamond received £17m in total.

Shareholders did not want to be identified but they now believe that Carnwath did not support the bonus payout – initially at least. When this speculation first surfaced, Agius said that the bank encouraged “a full and vigorous debate” but insisted that the pay deals were supported unanimously.

The Barclays annual meeting took place at the start of what has been dubbed the “shareholder spring”, when there was a wave of protests about executive pay.

Chris Grigg, the chief executive of British Land, the FTSE 100 property development firm behind the Lakeside shopping centre, is the latest to emerge as having a bumper pay rise last year. Grigg received a 50% boost to his pay packet this year to £3.4m, while his staff saw wages drop by an average of more than 5%.

Grigg received £1.9m in salary, bonus and benefits, plus a £280,000 cash allowance in lieu of a pension contribution in the year to March 2012. A golden hello of shares awarded “in order to facilitate [his] recruitment” in 2009 were also handed over, worth £1.19m.

British Land’s chief executive, a former investment banker, cashed in more than half of those shares, pocketing £622,000. In the previous year, he received £2m in salary, bonus and benefits, plus another £280,000 in lieu of a pension payment.

By contrast, employees were paid an average salary of £127,000 this year, compared with £134,000 last year. The company’s headcount increased slightly from 179 in the head office to 205 this year. The details were published in British Land’s annual report.

The value of British Land’s portfolio of office and retail property – which ranges from Cabot Circus in Bristol to Broadgate Circus in the City and Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield – rose by 2.6% to £10.3bn in the year to March.

The company, which is also developing the “Cheesegrater” skyscraper in the City, said London’s booming office rental market helped drive a 5% increase in pre-tax profits in the year to March.

Lord Turnbull, chairman of British Land’s remuneration committee, defended the pay scheme. “Pay plays an important retention role and hence needs to be competitive with alternative employment opportunities,” he wrote in the annual report. “This is particularly so as British Land’s expectations of staff are high and there is a scarcity value on proven performers.” As chief executive of a bank that is 82%-owned by the taxpayer, Hester now suffers even more scrutiny of his pay packet and was forced to waive a near £1m bonus this year after a political row.

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