The chairman of the remuneration committee at UK bank Barclays is to step down at the annual general meeting (AGM) on 23 April following years of public and shareholder criticism of large pay deals awarded to top executives at the bank.
The Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF) – which includes 64 public sector pension funds, collectively managing around £160bn (€224bn) – yesterday said the chair of the remuneration committee John Sunderland had to go from the Barclays board immediately.
It said that, after controversy over the bonuses for the 2013 financial year, Barclays had made a clear statement ahead of its April 2014 AGM that Sunderland was stepping down as chair of the committee to make way for Crawford Gillies.
However, 11 months later, he was still in the role, having therefore presided over another full year of remuneration decisions, LAPFF said.
Kieran Quinn, chair of the forum, said: “It is inexplicable how Barclays can have gone back on its promise to the 2014 AGM that Sir John would step down.”
Barclays has now said Sunderland is to resign at next month’s AGM.
A spokesman for Barclays insisted the resignation had nothing to do with shareholder pressure but that Sunderland was simply leaving the job because he had been on the bank’s board for nine years.
He said there had been no promise made by Barclays last year that Sunderland would go during the year.
Barclays issued a statement on 15 April last year that Gillies, who sits on the board of Standard Life and holds other positions, had been appointed as non-executive director.
It said at the time Gillies would become a member of the board remuneration committee, with the intention that he succeed Sunderland as chairman of that committee “at a date to be agreed, consistent with ensuring a smooth transition”.
Before Barclays announced that Sunderland was to resign at next month’s AGM, Quinn said the fact he was still in his role was “nothing short of misleading shareholders”.
“Having messed up remuneration for 2013, Sir John has, in fact, stayed on as chair and presided over another year of still unacceptably high pay for 2014, and is still in place in March 2015,” he said.
“Whether it is grossly excessive bonuses, the over-investment in the substantially underperforming investment bank, support for Bob Diamond, and now £1.25bn fines for Forex misconduct, Sir John has been part of every decision that has been disastrous for shareholder returns and the reputation of the bank,” Quinn said.
Diamond was chief executive of Barclays before resigning in July 2012, following controversy over the manipulation of LIBOR interest rates.