How transparent is Merlin? George Osborne says it will make London the most transparent financial centre in the world on remuneration.
But that won’t mean the public will be able to gawp at the pay packages of the top earners at Britain’s biggest banks. Watch out for Merlin’s sleight of hand.
The “two-plus-five” deal means that the remuneration of the five highest paid “senior executive officers” will be published alongside that of the two executive directors on the board.
This is a slightly tougher version of the rules in New York. But it falls short of Hong Kong in one respect — it does not require the disclosure of the top five pay packages.
These senior executive officers — who will remain anonymous under Merlin — could well be corporate managers whose pay is relatively humble, at least when compared to the hot-shots on the trading floor.
This compromise is in the interests of Osborne, as well as the banks. Remember that there are around 200 state employees at Royal Bank of Scotland who will be awarded a bonus worth more than £1m this year. The more information the public is given, the more Osborne is put on the backfoot.
So these titans of the public sector, these public servants on the trading floor, will again have to remain anonymous this year. Their selfless work on behalf of the exchequer will go unrecognised by the nation.
Meanwhile the coalition is planning to name all 15,000 council managers earning £58,000 or more as part of a crackdown on waste.
The tensions in the approach are obvious. Merlin is more transparent. But it is not as enlightening or rigorous as Sir David Walker’s proposals, which were ditched by Osborne.
And the Merlin spell carefully ensures that some rather uncomfortable political truths remain secret.