Tag: marginal productivity

“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.

The large bonuses received by bankers, often amounting to more than a million pounds, have been contentious for many years. With the banking crisis and subsequent recession, and with both public and government outrage at the size of the bonuses, many thought that the days of such bonuses were over. But such is not the case. “There has been public disquiet that leading banks – which have been seen as a major cause of the financial crisis – have been receiving taxpayer funds, but are not prepared to change their traditional culture of awarding big bonuses to key staff.”

The following articles look at what has been happening to senior bankers’ remuneration in recent months. But what are the market conditions that allow such rewards to continue? Are they a reflection of the marginal productivity of bankers or of their market power, or what?

RBS to keep paying bonuses despite 1bn first-half loss Telegraph (7/8/09)
Lloyds chief plans bonuses for ‘spectacular job’ in making £4bn loss Telegraph (6/8/09)
CS toxic bonuses are up 17%, but gains can’t be realised for four years eFinancial Careers (7/8/09)
Banks: Look, don’t touch Guardian (8/8/09)
Analysis: The plan’s the thing Times Online (7/8/09)
Cutting our bonuses would hit the taxpayer, says RBS Citywire (7/8/09)
France targets bankers’ bonuses BBC News (7/8/09)
Sarkozy weighs into debate over banker bonuses after BNP Paribas compensation sparks anger Los Angeles Times (7/8/09)
Knotting the purse-strings The Economist (6/8/09)
Pay and politics The Economist (6/8/09)


  1. Explain why many senior bankers have continued to receive huge bonuses. To what extent is oligopoly theory relevant to your explanation?
  2. To what extent do the size of the bonuses reflect senior bankers’ contributions to (a) the productivity and (b) the profits of their bank?
  3. If bankers are to be paid bonuses, what is the best form for these bonuses to take? Consider the incentive effects in your answer.
  4. Should bankers’ bonuses be regulated and, if so, what criteria should regulators use for determining the acceptable size of bonuses?