Editor’s blog: No compensation for failed fat cats

For my sins, the massaging of my ego and the odd tiny appearance fee, I do a fair bit of commentating on TV and radio about business topics. It brings out the suppressed Thespian in me. This year by far the largest demand for MG’s comment has come over the subject of “excessive” remuneration for fat cats and the widening gap between those who toil in the ranks of companies and those who lead them. In recent months I’ve been into the lion’s den with Polly Toynbee – who advocated we all live like the Finns – and had a couple of on-air scraps with members of the TUC.

My line is normally a combination of the following: a robust rejection of the politics of envy, a plee that success should be rewarded and celebrated when justified, and the pitifully short tenure expectancy of a FTSE 250 CEO. Then, if I’m feeling more playful, I ask rhetorically if a return to an income tax top rate of 98% plus an incomes policy where everyone’s take-home was worked out with the unions over beer and sandwiches at Number 10 would be such a good idea. A sort of you-can’t buck-the-market approach.

There are, however, limits to my tolerance of the behaviour of the titans and the Masters of the Universe who swan about in the world of finance. These people have been out making some huge stacks of hay as the sun has shone over the last decade and I fear they may have buggered things up for all of us. The whole thing is now unravelling and with their dodgy sub-prime offers bound up into collateralised debt obligations they have made a right royal screw up for large swathes of the good folk of middle America not to mention the broader US economy.

So when I hear, as the chickens come home to roost, that the ousted bosses of Merrill Lynch and Citigroup are likely to walk off with $161.5 million and $95 million respectively I get more than a bit cross. Matt Ridley, the Chairman who presided over the cock-up at Northern Rock has done the honorable thing and gone without payment. So should they – if these fantastically rich individuals live by the sword then they must die by it.