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Business Comment: Terry Murden

No, Katherine, sex is irrelevant in concerns over pay

Garrett CoxBumper pay for executives is rarely out of the headlines, though according to Katherine Garrett-cox, it becomes more of an issue when it concerns women.

The Alliance Trust chief executive has been speaking about the criticism she received in recent weeks over her remuneration, claiming that it would not have attracted the same level of attention if she had been a man.

Is she right?

By a strange twist, her comments coincided with a vote on the pay and bonus package awarded to Lloyds Banking Group CEO Antonio Horta-Osorio. His £11.5m deal dwarfed Ms Garrett-Cox’s £1.34m, but it was hardly waived through without a flicker.

Pirc, the shareholder action group, had called for shareholders at today’s Lloyds agm to reject the package amid continuing public concern at big pay deals for bankers. However, it was voted through comfortably because he is seen to have put right many of the wrongs of the past. A bank that was bust is now back among the dividend payers and by next year should be back in private hands.

As one shareholder said at the agm in Edinburgh today: “I’m not concerned if he’s delivering. If he wasn’t delivering then it would be a different story.”

There’s the point: the number of executives who have been under fire over so-called rewards for failure is almost beyond counting – and they are almost entirely men.

Ms Garrett-Cox’s situation is rather different to that of Mr Horta-Osorio. She is in danger of confusing gender issues with concerns over performance. The criticism she received was squarely because some shareholders were unhappy with key issues, not least the performance of Alliance Trust Savings.

She and her board were forced to submit to pressure for two directors to be appointed, against her wishes, and in all probability to save her job. Furthermore, today the board has moved to acquire Stocktrade which it hopes will boost ATS’s prospects for turning a profit.

Ms Garrett-Cox made her comments after picking up the Veuve Clicquot businesswoman of the year award. She must be congratulated on her prize, but she must also avoid the sort of hubris that brought banking a bad name.


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