When it comes to companies, the less murk, the better.
In the new edition of London Review of Books, author and journalist John Lanchester points out that three recent corporate “outrages” – the sale of UK lender Northern Rock to Virgin Money, the collapse of MF Global, and the Olympus scandal – share “a crucial similarity”:
An interested outside party, paying the closest of attention, and immersing herself in all the publicly available information, would have had no chance of knowing what was really going on.
In its new report, the High Pay Commission makes much of the risk that Britain will slide back to “Victorian levels of pay inequality” if runaway executive pay awards are not somehow reined in.
The parallel with the Victorian era is a resonant one. Even some of the characters in the modern-day saga are Dickensian. The avuncular Vince Cable, Britain’s business secretary and supporter of the thrust of the independent commission’s proposals, is half-Micawber, half-Cheeryble. John Varley, former chief executive of Barclays, seems a stiff-collared braces-wearing throwback to an earlier era in most respects – except one: the commission points out that top pay at his old bank is now 75 times that of the average worker, compared with a ratio of only 14.5 times in 1979. Read more