Wednesday 29 January 2020

'Banker bonuses over my dead body' - Ross

Minister slams 'brass neck' bank bosses seeking return to Celtic Tiger payments

Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Minister for Transport Shane Ross has launched a scathing attack on "brass neck bankers" and insisted he will do everything in his power to prevent the return of bonuses for senior executives in bailed-out banks.

Responding to suggestions that bonuses could return following a Government- ordered review of bankers' pay, Mr Ross categorically stated: "Over my dead body".

"I have a view that bonuses are not acceptable - not today, not tomorrow, not ever," he told the Sunday Independent.

"The idea that bankers should come back and look for bonuses, which were the really ugly side of the Celtic Tiger, to be restored to them, is just unthinkable and unacceptable.

"The Independent Alliance went into Government to put an end to this type of chicanery and sleight of hands," he added.

The Minister said bankers who are demanding bonuses "don't have an ounce of humility" and should instead see their salaries slashed.

Mr Ross's broadside at bank bosses follows Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe's announcement that he plans to review the ban on bonuses in State-supported banks.

Last week, Mr Donohoe said he will use his stake in AIB to block a share-related payment for executives but said he would launch a review on the prohibition on performance-related payments for senior bank staff.

The move raised concerns that bonuses are set to return less than eight years after the taxpayer forked out €64bn to bail out failed banks.

The bonus ban applies to executives in Bank of Ireland, AIB and Permanent TSB.

Mr Donohoe and Mr Ross privately discussed the review of bank bonuses before it was officially announced.

Yesterday, Mr Ross said there is no one in Fine Gael pushing for bankers' bonuses to return and said he believes the campaign to see the payments return will "come up against a brick wall".

The former Sunday Independent columnist was a ferocious critic of the bonus culture in the banking system before he was appointed as a minister.

He insisted his position has not changed and said he will seek to block any move to lift the ban on bonuses.

"My views have not change. The banks are not reformed. It is clear they have learned nothing if they are putting pressure on Government to get performance-related pay. They have learned no lessons and haven't got an ounce of humility, that's what's staggering about it," Mr Ross said.

The minister said he received the backing of his Independent Alliance colleagues to block any return of bonuses.

He said the group will be making a "very strong submission" to the Government's review which will push to retain the ban on bonuses and seek to have bankers' pay dramatically reduced.

Mr Ross said some senior executives in banks are receiving more than €100,000 a year for what he considered part-time work.

The banks claim they need to offer bonuses and performance-related pay to attract and retain senior staff as the economy improves.

They claim lenders which were not bailed out are at more of an advantage because they can attract the best and brightest in the industry by offering bonuses.

AIB's board planned to offer a deferred annual share scheme rather than bonuses to senior executives.

The moves would have seen executives earning almost 100pc of their basic pay in shares. The proposal will be voted on at this week's AIB annual general meeting.

However, Mr Donohoe said he will use his share in the bank to block the proposal. Bank of Ireland also wants to bring back bonuses but Mr Donohoe will abstain on this vote which means it is likely to pass.

Sunday Independent

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