Entering the Belly Of The Beast: Robin heads to the HSBC AGM

Entering the Belly Of The Beast: Robin heads to the HSBC AGM
May 27th 2011 / 
Robin Hood

This morning we hitched our wagons out of Sherwood and headed behind enemy lines – destination – HSBC annual general meeting. We joined angry shareholders and protesters to ask why HSBC prioritises pay above helping those who were hit hard by its casino banking business model.

Shareholders and general banking staff voiced concerns over lacklustre returns and high pay for the people at the top.  The board was grilled on the size of the gap between wages at the top and bottom of the bank, their role in poorer countries’ economies and bonuses. ‘For the last five years we have been paying you all for failure- how greedy can this board be?' asked one shareholder.

The meeting closed with a vote with a record high of one fifth of investors refusing to back the bank's remuneration plan, stronger opposition over pay than that faced by other banks in the UK. Shareholders were right to rebel and call HSBC's top brass pay levels obscene. If the bank really wants to live up to their often repeated buzz phrase of 'courageous integrity' they should implement a Robin Hood Tax.

Bank AGMs are usually a bit of mystery to all of us – cameras don’t get inside. We tried to change this, and were tweeting throughout: we have reproduced these below. It’s a fascinating picture of what really happens inside closed doors.

(In chronological order)

  • Major shareholders asking tough questions about bonuses
  • HSBC faces shareholder trial over costs, pay http://goo.gl/8hdrv
  • Well done to top merry man @joecassels who just asked why they don't support a Robin Hood Tax 
  • A shareholder just asked whether HSBC holds Gaddafi's money - they ducked the question
  • HSBC chair of board squirming over poor treatment of Indian customers and use of taxhavens 
  • Shareholder just asked chair of HSBC board how he can justify his 4 million pound basic salary when he oversaw subprime investment 
  • I just asked him about excessive bonuses - he said they need them to attract talent. Yeah right. 
  • Unite rep just asked the chief exec to give up his bonus to give it to HSBC staff at the bottom on 13,000 pounds a year 
  • Stuart Gulliver CEO (salary 11 million quid) ducks question on giving his bonus away. Perhaps he is a bit strapped this year 
  • Great question- do big institutional investors have secret meetings with management to back bonuses? 
  • Vicar just asked a brilliant question RHT would give money to the poor not just hidden in Jersey 
  • Board refuse to publish ratio of highest pay to the lowest- now 135 times for average FTSE company 
  • Questioner calls salaries 'wildly excessive' and 'obscene' and gets applause from shareholders 
  • Shareholder calls bonuses and wages 'wildly excessive' and 'obscene' and gets applause 
  • 'Bonus culture did not stop the banks leading us into disaster' little old lady shareholder more applause 
  • 'For the last five years we have been paying you all for failure- how greedy can this board be?' Great qu. 
  • One in five shareholders vote against the bonuses and exec pay- a record high
  • Mr chair- you seem not to notice questions from this side of the room- maybe you have a blindspot on the left?
  • Board member John Thorton makes weak attempt to justify excessive pay trying to bore us into submission
  • This company has not created shareholder value for a decade yet bonuses still paid
  • Even non-executive HSBC directors get 95,000 pounds a year, a 50 percent pay increase!
  • Brilliant Q @Hsbc agm: natural disasters all over world affecting millions. Can CEO explain how this affects profits? Unbelievable
  • It's all over the millionaire HSBC execs jumped in a fleet of limos and left us with some stale nibbles

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