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Saturday 23 August 2014

Shane Ross: This cat is still creaming it

Shane Ross

Published 18/03/2012 | 10:36

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I NEVER thought I would say a good word about Richie Boucher. Well, I won't. But the Bank of Ireland chief must be saluted as a genius, the sort of guy you would like on your side when you were eyeballing a spineless cabinet minister.

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Richie's pay is capped at €500,000 a year. The poor sinner has been condemned to live on 10 grand a week.

Richie sometimes makes bystanders weep when he waffles on about his big cut in salary, although he has never told us about all the jobs he must have turned down to stay at home and save the bank he helped to ruin.

Of course, if Richie had been made an offer by another bank of a cent more than the massive pay packet he currently pockets, he would have dumped the Bank of Ireland albatross years ago.

Last week, it emerged that Richie's 10 grand a week was not as small as it sounds. He has magicked it into 16 grand a week.

In my book, he is breaking the salary cap by 60 per cent. Not in the Byzantine world of Ireland's bankers where he is just a clever clogs.

Last year Boucher pulled a mighty stunt. He managed to persuade the Bank of Ireland to award him a bit of compensation. Normally compensation to bankers is a different racket, a sum paid to bankers for loss of office when they are getting the heave-ho. In Richie's case it is for staying available.

He has given up the right to retire at 55. In return, they have paid him -- yes, paid him -- an extra €123,000.

Quite a contrast to the treatment of his predecessor, who was handsomely compensated for taking early retirement. Richie is being compensated for not taking early retirement. Bankers win either way.

So Richie B is now threatening to stay on longer than he is needed. Provided he lives up to his threat to remain, the Bank of Ireland directors gave him an extra two-and-a-half grand a week.

It is not clear whether the B of I actually wants Richie to remain beyond 55, but that does not seem to matter.

That payment was bad enough, but Boucher was awarded another little "extra". The bank is stuffing money into his pension. The Court (the Bank of Ireland still suffers from delusions of grandeur) gave Richie €174,000 to sink into his already bulging pension fund.

And the icing on the cake, -- the same Court has agreed to hand over another €34,000 to cover the poor guy's car costs and the subscriptions to any clubs which will tolerate him as a member. Altogether, his package came to €831,000 last year. Not bad when the salary is capped at €500,000.

Round One to Richie and the Bank of Ireland. I hope you will join me and other shareholders at Round Two, the bullring in UCD, for the AGM on April 24.

Make no mistake, the plutocrats heading for the platform at UCD are winning. The directors are still in clover. They have been chosen to run one of Ireland's two "pillar banks". Bank of Ireland and AIB are being given the Government's blessing; their old licence to print money is being restored after a few years in the doghouse.

No such luck for Anglo Irish Bank, now burdened with a new indigestible name and the certainty of oblivion. Yet they are pulling equally clever stunts on the way down. This destitute outfit is not starving its directors. It is mimicking the sleight-of-hand championed by Richie.

While Anglo pleads the poor mouth, figures which I saw on Friday reveal that the Anglo directors -- appointed by the Government -- are still living high on the hog.

Alan Dukes, the part-time chairman of Anglo, is entitled to a salary of €250,000. Alan has waived 100 grand of this because he already enjoys a State pension of €100,000. Overpaid as Alan is, he alone has taken the honourable course. Alan has handed back €100,000 to the State.

Yet the other part-time directors are creaming it. Patriots to a man, they are grabbing a basic €74,000 a year for their service to the nation. And the four part-timers -- all appointed by Fianna Fail -- are not restricted to such a paltry figure.

Each one of them receives a Boucher-style add-on to their lousy basic of €74,000. Two of them enjoy a super-snatch.

Gary Kennedy, the ex-AIB top dog, a hero of the property disaster, has been given no less than a 35 per cent top-up of €26,000, bringing his take- home package to €99,000. Gary receives the extra bonus for chairing the audit committee.

Maurice Keane, a former hero of the Bank of Ireland, receives the same basic pay of €74,000. Anglo found a similarly solemn-sounding committee for Maurice to chair. For just €26,000, Maurice has agreed to chair the Risk and Compliance Committee, bringing his payout up to €99,000.

That leaves the two less favoured directors. Of them, Aidan Eames -- a former hero of Fianna Fail -- adds €13,000 to his basic €74,000 package for chairing the supposedly undemanding Nomination and Governance Committee.

And finally, Noel Cawley is given the same bonus as Aidan for being good enough to preside over deliberations at the Remuneration Committee.

A board committee for every director in the audience. The guys in Anglo could teach Richie Boucher a trick or two about bankers' bells and whistles. Maurice and Gary are insiders who learned a few tricks in the pillar banks.

Just for good measure, Anglo's chief executive Mike Aynsley's pay, like Richie's, is capped at €500,000. Not to worry about such minor restrictions, Mike's total package comes to just short of a cool million (€974,000).

Anglo could even trade a few secrets with the slipperiest of all banks, AIB.

AIB pulled the best stunt of the lot. Last week it told me that its directors all received a basic fee of €27,000.

And, oh yes, the bank admitted, there was the odd "committee" for directors. All the information I wanted was on page 128 of the annual report.

Which, of course, it is not.

But there was enough there to reassure me that none of them was limited to only €27,000.

AIB provides a menu of options to bolster their directors' pickings. Some directors are on the boards of subsidiaries; others clean up on committees; there is a deputy chairman on €150,000 a year and a senior independent director with a big bonus. There is a clause in the annual report giving out goodies to any part-time director who "performs additional services".

Some AIB directors on a basic €27,000 happily topped the 100-grand mark in fees in 2010 -- despite the fact that they were presiding over a bankrupt State bank. Even the "public interest" directors, Derek Collier and Dick Spring, crashed comfortably through the €27,000 barrier.

When I asked AIB for a breakdown of what each director was paid for these artificial add-ons, it refused.

"We are not obliged to give it to you" the bank insisted, as it retreated into the culture of secrecy.

Richie Boucher is poised to head one of the pillar banks. Watch out for the revival of options, bonuses, board committees and compensation.

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