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Metro Bank, the sector's lightning rod, escapes the bolts ... for now

After another short-seller squeeze yesterday, shares in Metro Bank have opened little changed today but more trouble could be coming down the turnpike, with shareholder advisory groups exhorting investors to make their feelings known at the bank's forthcoming AGM
Metro Bank
Metro Bank's chairman declined to throw the CEO under the boss after the astonishing accounting blunder was uncovered

The short sellers’ favourite whipping boy, Metro Bank PLC (LON:MTRO), was holding steady this morning after another torrid trading session yesterday.

The shares, which fell 8.3% yesterday, edged up tuppence to 543.5p this morning as the City waits with growing impatience for the bank to crack on with its heavily flagged fund-raising.

READ Metro Bank to raise £350mln in emergency cash call and CEO to waive bonus after accounting blunder

The company said in February that it plans to tap the market for £350mln following a major accounting blunder uncovered in January.

Moaneration about remuneration

After the accounting blunder chief executive Craig Donaldson said he would give up his bonus this year – his bonus last year was worth £800,000, which made up a larger portion of his £1.5mln pay package than his £650,000 salary – but chief financial officer, David Arden, is still set to trouser a £288,000 bonus, and investors are not happy.

Shareholder advisory group ISS has advised shareholders to vote against the lender’s remuneration report and to abstain in the votes on the re-election of four directors, including the chairman, Vernon Hill, and the chief executive officer.

Shareholder unrest comes as the disparity in the pay scales of FTSE 100 bosses and the rank and file workers becomes more of an issue.

Analysis by the Equality Trust in 2017 indicated more than two-thirds of FTSE 100 chief executives (CEOs) are paid more than 100 times the average UK salary and only six of them were paid less than £1mln in 2015.

While large parts of the population have had to tighten their belts since the banking crisis of 2007/8, it seems CEOs have just stuck their snouts deeper into the trough, and that includes the banking bosses; the Equality Trust’s research indicated that the CEO of Standard Chartered PLC (LON:STAN) was the 10th best paid boss among the Footsie cohort while the guv’nor at Lloyds Banking Group PLC (LON:LLOY), António Horta-Osório, sneaked into the top 10 with a package worth £8.7mln.

Investors seem to be particularly irked by the excessively generous pension plans doled out to bosses; presumably someone earning close to £10mln and running a global bank lacks the wherewithal and skill to open a self-invested personal pension (SIPP) ...

Pension tension

Standard Chartered and Lloyds’ shareholders have been up in arms over the generous pension payments for the top brass while HSBC bowed to pressure to apply the same rules to its CEO, John Flint, that apply to “regular” HSBC employees, and cap the amount of cash it pays him in lieu of a pension contribution to 10% of his annual salary.

The 10% limit is the one suggested by shareholders advisory organisation, The Investment Association, but HSBC is the only banking giant that currently complies with this – and that was only after shareholders turned the screw.

Workers in the City are adept at working their way around rules changes to shake the money tree – it’s their stock in trade, after all – so it is unlikely that Britain’s banking bosses will be making use of the country’s food banks just yet but in the meantime pressure remains on Metro Bank, with almost 12% of the company’s shares lent out by institutional investors to short sellers who have sold them in expectation of being able to buy them back cheaper later.

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