Reining in excessive pay rises for top earners

“100 leading progressive figures from across the centre-left, civil society and from all corners of the UK, have today called on the government to establish a High Pay Commission to curb excessive pay.” So begins the press release from the pressure group, Compass. Calls for restraint on high pay are hardly surprising at a time of recession and falling profits. Many banks are still paying large bonuses to top executives, despite some of the banks having to be rescued by the government. Other firms too are still rewarding their senior executives with huge bonuses despite poor performance.

But are the members of Compass right to say that “the unjust rewards of a few hundred ‘masters of the universe’ exacerbated the risks we were all exposed to many times over” and that “a High Pay Commission is needed to deliver a fairer, more stable and sustainable economy for the future”? The following linked articles look at the issues.

Coalition calls on government to regulate high pay Guardian (17/8/09)
Think tank Compass says ‘masters of universe’ must be reigned in Telegraph (17/8/09)
The Big Question: Should there be a commission into high pay, and how would it operate? Independent (18/8/09)
Darling dismisses pay commission BBC news (17/8/09) (see also video)
Demands for ‘high commission’ to cut pay and bonuses of executives Scotsman (18/8/09)
It is time for action on excessive pay Guardian (17/8/09)
Top executives pocket huge bonuses despite recession Independent (518/8/09)
Investor group ABI wants guaranteed bonuses stopped Guardian (17/8/09)
It’s an unequal struggle to rein in those with the most The Herald (18/8/09)
Would a High Pay Commission solve inequality? Management Today (17/8/09)
Bankers’ pay: Coining it in Guardian (18/8/09)
Will Britain’s second dose of anti-bonus fever have a useful payoff? Telegraph (17/8/09)
Merit Pay Times Online (17/8/09)


  1. What are the arguments for and against establishing a High Pay Commission?
  2. To what extent are the rewards of senior executives a reflection of their marginal productivity?
  3. Discuss the extent to which the bonus system could be redesigned to align the incentives of such a system to the long-term performance of the company.