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Saturday, 4 December 2010

It's A Scandal, We're Being Screwed...

It's a scandal, we're still being screwed to pay bankers their bonuses...

This must be the final insult. In three days' time, Brian Lenihan's Budget will take a big chunk of money from every taxpayer in the country to bail out our failed banks.

Now we discover that those same banks have already been using public cash to pay their staff handsome bonuses and salary increases that will ensure they escape the worst of the pain.

Needless to say, this information has not been exactly been freely volunteered by the banks themselves. In fact, it has only emerged because the backbench Fianna Fail TD Chris Andrews put down a written Dail question on the issue last Wednesday.

A new opinion poll suggests that as few as 16 FF TDs could be returned in the coming general election -- but Andrews' willingness to confront his own Government's policies suggests that if there's any justice, he will be one of them. The evidence is clear.

Over the last two years, most workers have been forced to take pay cuts but AIB and Anglo Irish actually bumped up some staff salaries by 3.2pc and 5pc respectively.

This might seem like a generous gesture, until you remember that the Government was simultaneously pouring money into the banks' coffers in order to pay for their leaders' mistakes.

In the real world, bonuses are something that you only get if you've done a good job. It comes as something of a surprise, them, to discover that a grand total of 15 Anglo Irish staff members received these awards in 2009 and 2010.

Since Anglo is now one of the most pathetic basket cases the banking world has ever seen, we can only imagine how much worse things could be if these people hadn't been doing such sterling work behind the scenes. It would be bad enough if the only people to benefit from these pay increases were frontline staff, who are at least innocent of the crimes and stupidity that have brought this country to its knees. Instead, it seems that banking executives are as keen as ever to stick their own snouts into the public trough.

Earlier this week a Central Bank report found that only one bank was making a real effort to reform its pay policies, while the others were still presiding over the Celtic Tiger culture of perks, bonuses and golden parachutes.

As the report points out, this greed mentality is also responsible for the toxic loans that eventually led to the national humiliation of last week's IMF/EU bailout.

To put it very politely, most of us would be quite keen to see that not a red cent of this goes towards lining the pockets of banking executives.

Of the €35bn that has been earmarked for the banks, almost half will come from the National Pensions Reserve Fund -- while the likes of Michael 'Fingers' Fingleton can retire on a gold-plated €27m pension that the law is apparently unable to touch.

Shocking

Since these people clearly don't do shame, it is up to the Central Bank to put manners on them. While Patrick Honohan's new regime seems to be a vast improvement on his predecessor's, however, it is still far from clear that the straight-talking governor has the powers he needs to clean up this mess.

This week's report even begs whistleblowers within the banks to expose any executives who may be overpaid, a shocking admission that the regulators are apparently unable to get this basic information for themselves.

Tuesday's Budget will be yet another grim reminder of how the banking system has bled this country dry. It seems that no amount of taxpayers' money, however, will make these financial institutions anything other than morally bankrupt.


Report - Evening Herald.

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